Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Jordan Jefferson is back, the senior quarterback having rejoined LSU's team (and even due to practice Thursday) after having his felony charges reduced to misdemeanor status by a grand jury Wednesday.
But getting back on the roster is only the beginning for Jefferson, whose final season in Baton Rouge still faces any number of questions. With the help of CBSSports.com LSU RapidReporter Glenn Guilbeau, here's the best answers to those questions we have at the moment:
Is Jefferson totally in the clear as far as suspensions go, then? Where Les Miles and the athletic department are concerned, yes. But associate athletic director Herb Vincent has said the LSU Dean of Students "has its own process" and could suspend Jefferson over the reduced simple battery charge. If the Dean the combination of Jefferson's high profile and relative lenience from the football program (remember that he remained free of public punishment until he was arrested) looks bad for the institution, there could be motivation for intervening.
But we doubt it's going to come to that. Expect Jefferson to remain on the active roster for the remainder of the season.
Could Jefferson play this Saturday against Kentucky? Miles seemingly changed his tune on this overnight, saying late Wednesday he did not expect Jefferson to be in uniform before declining to rule out playing time on Thursday.
While Jefferson is, obviously, woefully short of on practice time, the Kentucky game could represent the perfect opportunity for Miles to return him to the field. The game is likely to be well out of hand by its late stages; Jefferson's debut would be over and done with rather than becoming a potential distraction as the Tigers prepare for more rugged opponents; Kentucky's questionable run defense should allow him to enjoy some on-field success and confidence in the process of getting his 2011 feet wet.
So despite Miles calling the prospect "unlikely," it won't surprise us at all if Jefferson does take the field late in the game Saturday.
Can Jefferson reclaim his starting job from Jarrett Lee? Miles stated flatly that Lee is his starting quarterback, and barring a surprise defeat and/or a sudden, dramatic downturn in Lee's performance, that shouldn't change. As dynamic as the Tiger defense and special teams have been, the biggest difference between these 2011 Tigers and the past few editions -- which also featured dynamic defense and special teams -- has been the offense's ability to step on the opponent's proverbial throat when handed the opportunity.
Lee's efficient-bordering-on-outright-good play has been a major part of that, most notably in his 16-of-28, 3-TD, 0 INT performance on the road in Morgantown. Not even the Hatter would be Mad enough to mess with the kind of success LSU's enjoyed so far this season, so Jefferson won't be able to take the job away; Lee can only lose it.
So what kind of role can Jefferson expect? We'll let Miles do the talking here: "Just like a year ago when Lee played in every game, there would be that opportunity that Jordan Jefferson would play in every game as well."
Lee's role was as the change-of-pace quarterback Miles has always preferred to rotate in for a series here or there (remember Ryan Perriloux helping win the Tigers' 2007 national title? Miles does), and Jefferson's instantaneuous promotion to second-string over Zach Mettenberger suggests Miles isn't kidding when he talks about getting Jefferson playing time. But whereas Lee came in to add an aerial element in 2010, Jefferson will be expected to use his legs and elusiveness to give the running game a boost.
Given that Jefferson never seemed to reach his potential as an every-down quarterback, focusing on a limited package specifically tailored to his strengths could make him more effective than ever. As long as Lee continues his solid play, Lee with Jefferson as the off-the-bench curveball offers far more potential than Jefferson giving way to the more-conventional Lee.
No one would argue that the bar brawl and Jefferson's suspension have been good things for LSU ... but it's nonetheless possible they could wind up accidentally forcing Miles into best-case quarterback scenario he never quite found the past three seasons.