Jordan Jefferson stood outside the team’s locker room on Thursday with a binder packed so thick that you might confuse the starting quarterback for an upper-level biology student.
Outside of pages from the team’s playbook, Jefferson’s luggage held the entirety of the game plan for North Carolina.
And while the rest of his teammates are seeing the Tar Heels for the first time, Jefferson – now in his second season as the starter under center – set the curve months ago.
“I’ve been watching them since the summer,” he said. “Their defensive line is really good. That’s one thing that stands out. Their ends rush up the field. (Marvin) Austin really comes off the ball hard. That’s one of my concerns.”
The concerns of the LSU coaches aren’t restricted to North Carolina’s vaunted defense.
For starters, can Jefferson - who went down for a head-turning 34 sacks last fall - get the ball out and keep drives alive?
Even for Jefferson, it’s one of the most important questions headed into the new season.
“I've been working on making my release quicker,” he said. “We are going to win a one-on-one situation. Whenever I see a guy open, I'm going to release the ball to him.”
Terrance Toliver couldn’t be happier.
“When he gets the ball down field, it enables us to make plays,” said the team’s lone senior wide receiver. “Jordan’s getting the ball off on time, and he’s getting it to his receivers so we can make the plays. He’s just making more noise out there.”
With experience comes maturation, and with maturation comes confidence. After he started 12 games last fall, including his second postseason bowl start, Jefferson’s making his move towards the back half of the quarterback evolution chart.
“After my freshman year I really couldn’t analyze myself to see where I had mistakes,” he said. “I knew what to focus on this time.”
While scrimmages have been closed to the media, those tracking Jefferson’s progress will be glad to hear that the reviews have consistently been positive. Last week, Miles called Jefferson one of the top three performers during the team’s final scrimmage of fall camp.
“He's really worked hard on his reads, understanding coverage and where to go with the football,” said offensive coordinator Gary Crowton. “That should get the ball out of his hands a little bit quicker. When the ball is out of his hands a little bit quicker, you don't have to protect as long and it helps everybody.”
In eight days, fans will know where Jefferson stands.
Fortunately, Atlanta and the Georgia Dome serve as Jefferson’s first love of sorts – the field that officially welcomed him into the college football world when he led LSU to a 38-3 upset win over 14th-ranked Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl two seasons ago.
“My last memory was that I was Offensive MVP,” said Jefferson, who finished the night 16-of-25 for 142 yards and a touchdown. “It was exciting for me. I have a lot of memories from that game.
“I wouldn’t mind going back to the Georgia Dome and repeat the same thing,” he continued. “I feel (Atlanta) is my stomping grounds. I feel very comfortable playing in that stadium.”