Friday, August 26, 2011

LSU loses its QB and probably its title hopes

Jordan Jefferson has been arrested and suspended indefinitely:
LSU players Jordan Jefferson and Josh Johns face felony battery charges and are reportedly in the process of turning themselves in to authorities for booking at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

Meanwhile, LSU coach Les Miles has suspended the pair from the football team. LSU released the following statement this morning:

“Jordan and Josh have been suspended indefinitely,” Miles said. “We will continue to cooperate with the authorities in an effort to find out exactly what took place during the incident.

“As sad as this incident is, it’s important that we learn from this and that we take away a valuable lesson. This has weighed on all of us. It’s time for us to come together as a team and focus on what we are here to do.”
The arrest part seemed inevitable based on Wednesday's report that police seized 49 pairs of shoes (!) from Jefferson's apartment following witness reports that he kicked a man in the head in last weekend's ugly bar fight. The suspension was sure to follow (even if it is the SEC), meaning LSU will be without its starting QB for the foreseeable future and possibly the entire season.

Whether or not Jefferson returns at some point is mostly irrelevant: LSU's national title hopes just took a massive hit, as there's no chance he'll be on the field next Saturday night in Dallas against Oregon for a game that will put one team in the top two and the other in an absolutely-must-win-out position. And in the first month alone, LSU also plays at top-25 teams Mississippi State and West Virginia. Whatever amount of time Jefferson misses, it will be meaningful.

So LSU needs a quarterback, and the next guy in line is probably NOT ex-Georgia recruit Zach Mettenberger, who was everybody's favorite "player to watch" back in spring; instead, fifth-year senior Zach Lee has been taking the second-team snaps in camp. Lee actually started as a redshirt freshman, but there's a reason he was leapfrogged by Jefferson: He threw 14 touchdowns and 16 picks, and he completed less than 50 percent of his passes in his last three SEC games that year. In other words, he wasn't good (again, he was also a redshirt freshman).

Lee did get some regular playing time last year during the SEC portion of the schedule after Jefferson's disastrous 3-for-10, two-interception first half against Tennessee, and he was a little better but far from great: He completed about 60 percent of his passes but hit the 100-yard mark only twice (insert Mike Leach laughter here) and threw the aforementioned two touchdown passes, both against Florida. LSU went 4-2 during that stretch as Jefferson and Lee split snaps pretty evenly. Jefferson then regained control of the job against Mississippi and held onto it for the final three games.

So ... unless Lee has taken a huge step forward after reportedly being left in the dust by Jefferson this spring -- or unless Mettenberger has a hype-fulfilling revelation -- the passing game probably won't be very good. That could be a problem against Oregon, West Virginia, Florida, etc., especially when you add in the graduation of running back Stevan Ridley and top wideout Terrence Toliver. It's tough to win championships (national, SEC or otherwise) if you can't score touchdowns.

Running the wildcat with uber-athlete and former five-star QB recruit Russell Shepard -- the designated "get him the ball in space" guy in LSU's not-very-creative offense -- would be an interesting possibility ... except Shepard was suspended Thursday (good timing, amirite?) for "violating school and NCAA codes that pertain to discussing NCAA inquiries with teammates." It's unclear when he'll be back, but he's out for at least the opener.

Here's an interesting quote from Caesers betting expert Todd Furhman from an interview just yesterday:
“Right now I’m operating under the assumption Jefferson will play and plan to open the game at Oregon -1,” Fuhrman said. “If he can’t go and Lee starts, however, I’d be inclined to make Oregon somewhere in the -2.5 to -3 range.”
Whatever the swing is for the Oregon game, you can apply it at a macro level for LSU's season. Miles was saying stuff like this ...
"(Jefferson) gets it out of his hand so quickly. He goes through the reads and progressions. There's much less hesitation in the decision-making process."
... all offseason, and it's all irrelevant now that the ball is in Lee's hands for at least the early part of the season. Like I said three paragraphs ago, it's tough to win championships if you can't score touchdowns, and it's tough to score touchdowns without a decent quarterback.

Lee might be decent -- which is as much as can be said for Jefferson's uninspiring 2010 season (seven touchdowns and 10 picks) -- but the fact that he was comfortably behind Jefferson to begin with doesn't offer a ton of hope, and being thrown into the lineup a week before the opener offers even less.


Post a Comment

Powered by Blogger.