Thanks to the bye week, there was no media luncheon after the Florida game where reporters and news personalities could grill head coach Les Miles for an answer that certainly would have been heard before.
Each week, no matter the opponent nor the performance, the question about quarterback play is raised.
And, every week, Miles stands firm behind his response, which is often delivered in a tone that lets one know that the headman is not budging on the issue.
“I like the development of our quarterback who is the starter,” said Miles when asked about the performance during bye week preparations of backup Jarrett Lee, who was the starter for LSU in 2008.
When asked about Lee’s status in week’s past, Miles has more or less said that it would take Jefferson losing his right arm before Lee was handed the reigns once more.
“There is no preconceived notion at this point [to play anyone else],” said Miles on Monday.
There you have it.
Jordan Jefferson is, and will be, the starting quarterback at LSU for the 2009 campaign. Like it or not, but No. 9 is number one.
So why the confidence in the 19-year old gunslinger, who does not appear that confident in himself when it comes to slinging around his gun?
Out of 120 teams, LSU’s passing offense (171 yards per game) is among the 15 worst in the country. Thanks to Kentucky and Vanderbilt, that is not the worst in the Southeastern Conference – both schools average about 20 yards less per game.
Yet, there is LSU at the bottom, sitting alongside teams like Georgia Tech, Navy and Army. Their silver lining is that the aforementioned teams run all-out option attacks. Those schools rarely want to throw the football.
That is not the case at LSU.
With receivers like Brandon LaFell and Terrance Toliver, the Tigers are licking their chops to throw down field.
Lee had good receivers in 2008 as well, but his inexperience helped push the Tigers towards their downward spiral. The redshirt freshman threw 16 interceptions, which has kept the Texas native in an unlit wing of Miles’ doghouse ever since.
Jefferson was standing on the sidelines the whole way, and he saw what can happen if things get out of control.
By the Arkansas game at season’s end, the Tiger players were at each other’s throats and wanted blood. How could their season have come to this?
16 interceptions certainly did not help, and Jefferson has not let go of that thought.
Throughout the spring and preseason workouts, Jefferson preached the good word of minimalism – how he could do less and the team would achieve more.
So far Jefferson has held up his end of the bargain, but the Tigers don’t seem to be achieving the more part of the equation.
A glaring mark on Jefferson’s game is his hesitancy to go downfield, certainly born from the play of Lee last fall.
If Jefferson doesn’t take risks, how can the defense take the ball away? That seems the line of thought running through the LSU starting quarterback’s head right now.
Through six games, the risks have certainly been minimal. Jefferson ranks 49th in the nation in pass efficiency (133.41) as he has completed on 91-of-145 passes (62.76 percent) for seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
The numbers aren’t bad, but those hip to the Tigers way of life on Saturdays know that there is a lot left to be desired – beginning with opening up a vertical attack and moving away from a passing game that has lived and died with the intermediate game.
Miles noted much of the same, but begged for patience from fans before asking for what else was on the menu.
“It's in the evolution of every young quarterback that he gets to the point in a read where he goes to the other side and makes a quick throw, or he pulls it down and scoots and get some yards -- which Jordan has done at times,” he said.
What coaches don’t want are sacks, and the Tigers have allowed 18 of them.
Though the offensive line is certainly a bit to blame for the lack of pass protection, Miles pointed to Jefferson’s room for mental growth as an immediate need.
“You throw it away, you let it rip,” he said. “There's certainly that piece that we're trying to get to with Jordan.”
Miles went on to say that the responsibility to make the vertical game work does not rest just on the shoulders of his 19-year old quarterback, but rather those from the top of the power chain to the bottom – from receivers catching balls to the coaches calling in the right plays.
No matter, with LSU ranked 112 in total offense, something must change.
Just don’t expect it to be the quarterback.