Tag:T-Bob Hebert
Posted on: January 10, 2012 3:04 am
Edited on: January 10, 2012 1:05 pm
 

Jefferson switch backfires on Miles as Lee sits

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



Bringing Jordan Jefferson off the bench on Nov. 5 might have won Les Miles his first meeting with Alabama this season. But that same decision might also have lost him the meeting that mattered.

Jefferson's mobility and the option looks he opened up help rescue what had been a flailing offense in Tuscaloosa, with his final option pitch of the night -- a 15-yard gain by Michael Ford -- clinching the win in overtime. It was after that first Alabama game that Miles and the LSU staff went away from 9-0 starter Jarrett Lee and towards Jefferson for good, with Lee attempting just five passes total over the Tigers' final four games. And Jefferson appeared to have repaid that leap of faith, putting together effective showings against Ole Miss and Arkansas.

But Monday in New Orleans, it appeared Jefferson's earlier success against the Tide had been nothing more than purple-and-fool's gold. The same option plays went nowhere when they didn't go backwards. Jefferson was hopeless as a passer anywhere beyond the line-of-scrimmage, completing 11-of-his-17 passes but for a useless 3.1 yards an attempt. His legs rarely helped him against the vicious Tide pass rush, as he finished with 14 carries for 15 yards. And Jefferson capped his night with the game's only interception, a mind-bending on-the-run chest pass to a running back -- Spencer Ware -- who had already turned to block for him. 

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It got so bad that Jefferson was booed by his own fans, in a national title game, in New Orleans. But still, even with the LSU offense looking more likely to put points on the board for the Tide than for their own team, Lee never entered the game. His final game as a collegian ended without his having taken a snap.

"I did feel like I'd get opportunity tonight," Lee said, "and I didn't."

Neither Lee nor the Tiger faithful were the only ones wondering if Miles had Jefferson a longer leash in the Superdome than he'd earned.

"Jarrett didn't get a shot. I felt like maybe he should have," said senior offensive lineman Will Blackwell. "He didn't, but that's not the reason we lost. Jarrett Lee not playing is not the reason we lost.

"Jarrett won nine games for us and we did very well in those nine games. He throws the ball a little bit better than Jordan, but Jordan runs it a little better. It's kind of a pick-your-poison kind of deal. Unfortunately, tonight we picked the wrong one."

Even Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart admitted he's expected to see Lee, saying he was "real shocked" Miles had never gone to the bullpen, before politely adding "They kind of rode the horse that brought them." 

In his postgame press conference, Miles was asked multiple times about his decision to stick with Jefferson -- once by former New Orleans Saints quarterback and current radio host Bobby Hebert, father of LSU lineman T-Bob Hebert, in a rambling and confrontational "question" that has to be read to be believed -- and stated (in his own Milesian style) that he felt Jefferson was better-suite to handle the Tide pass rush.

"We did consider Jarrett Lee," Miles said. " But we felt like with the pass rush that we were getting that we needed a guy that could move the seat and not sustain that pass rush ... As much as I would have liked to have put Jarrett Lee in because the program owes him a lot, he really did a great job for us in the beginning of the year and really throughout his career, I felt like it would be unfair to him with the pass rush ... That was my call."

Certainly the threat of the Tide sack artists was a factor to consider. And Blackwell is right that the Crimson Tide would have won that game if Tom Brady was at the LSU controls. But between LSU's stubborn determination to make the option "work," Miles's refusal to bench Jefferson (even if only to get his head on straight) and the phasing out of Lee over the season's final weeks, it seems fair to ask if the much larger factor was simply that LSU's staff was convinced that Jefferson gave them the best chance to win--no matter the evidence mounting in front of their eyes.

Why would they be so certain? The only logical explanation is because that's how things had worked out for them the first time around, and after weeks of preparation, LSU simply wasn't prepared for them to not work out a second time. In switching to Jefferson in the Game of the Century, Miles won a huge battle. But after Monday, that same choice seems to have helped cost him the national championship war.

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Posted on: November 3, 2011 5:36 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 1:11 pm
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Nov. 3: QB showdown

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.




DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 2, or the number of fumbles LSU has lost all season, the third-fewest total in the FBS. What's incredible is that that number is still one more than the number of interceptions thrown by Tiger quarterbacks in 2011; only Utah State has also tossed just one. Not surprisingly, LSU's total of three turnovers is the lowest in the nation. But Alabama's not that far behind--the Tide's eight ties them for sixth-fewest nationally.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Which team has the advantage at quarterback?

Just before the season -- even given that AJ McCarron had yet to start a game at the collegiate level and hadn't even been delcared the full-time Alabama starter -- this was a no-brainer. LSU was mired in a quarterbacking slump that had lasted three full seasons, and their best hope for a change in fortunes seemed already dashed by the indefinite suspension of the reportedly much-improved Jordan Jefferson. Jarrett Lee couldn't really be the answer, could he?

Not only has Lee been the answer, he's been such a positive that if the question is still a no-brainer, it's a no-brainer in the Tigers' favor. With an incredible 13-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, the highest quarterback ratio in the SEC (and one of the top 20 in the nation), and the single biggest hand in an offense averaging an unthinkable 39 points per-game, the senior isn't just having a career year--the former turnover machine is having the sort of season we believed would have to be some other quarterback's career year. If we were picking the first-team All-SEC quarterback today, Tyler Wilson would be Lee's only serious competition.

But what takes LSU's quarterback position from merely "outstanding" to "nearly as good as any that's not Stanford's" is that Lee's only part of the equation. Les Miles has always handled the two-QB, change-of-pace rotation expertly, and so it's no surprise that hasn't changed with Jefferson back and the "running" quarterback also a senior with three years' worth of starts behind him. The numbers for the LSU quarterback spot in the three games since Jefferson's full-time return speak for themselves: 70 percent of passes completed, 10.2 yards per-attempt, 8 touchdowns, no interceptions, 82 yards rushing and a rush TD (courtesy of Jefferson) for good measure.

It's a testament to how strongly McCarron has come on since being named the Tide starter that, for all of that, it's not a no-brainer to declare LSU with the advantage here; his 67 percent completion rate and 8.3 yards per-attempt are both better marks than Lee's, and since throwing two picks Week 1 vs. Kent State, McCarron's 9-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio will stand with anyone's. Particularly worrying for the Tigers is that McCarron has been particularly money at home: 15-of-20 without a pick vs. Arkansas, a 4-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio vs. Vanderbilt, a season-high 10.9 yards per-attempt against Tennessee last Saturday.

Combine McCarron's penchant for such strong showings at Bryant-Denny with an LSU secondary we feel is just a hair more boom-or-bust than the lockdown unit Lee and Jefferson will face, and it's possible that the redshirt sophomore will outplay his LSU counterparts--especially if he can keep the ball out of the hands of the LSU ballhawks. That would be a win that would no doubt put LSU in deep, deep trouble.

But at this point in the season, Lee and Jefferson have done enough that even on the road, even against Alabama, we're expecting them to get the better in the head-to-head matchup. That doesn't mean LSU will necessarily come away with the victory in a game this tight--but if they don't, we are confident in saying it won't be on the guys under center.



THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: You won't find much in the way of bulletin board material in the above video interviews with Les Miles, T-Bob Hebert and Eric Reid, which is why CBS Sports maybe should have spoken to LSU senior tight end Deangelo Peterson instead. Asked about his matchups Saturday, Peterson had this to say(emphasis added):
"I think I can play a big role because I feel like their linebackers can't guard me one-on-one. They're slow ... I don't think their safeties can either. If the ball comes my way, I'll make an opportunity with it."
Well then, Mr. Peterson. CBSSports.com RapidReporter Glenn Guilbeau is correct when he points out that the Tide's linebackers are larger than the ones typically faced by the Tigers, and no doubt Miles appreciates his player's confidence. We still have no question Miles would much rather not have his player challenging the likes of Dont'a Hightower and Mark Barron to prove they can, in fact, cover him.

It's not often that a team facing a bunch of dedicated road-graders like Alabama willingly gets smaller, but Miles said Wednesday that he won't shy away from using the nickel -- a move that would put more emphasis on his loaded secondary and less on his merely-good linebackers -- when the game calls for it.

“It depends on the situations that we run into, but there’s also a point in time where the fast guys will make it more difficult for the big guys to block at times,” Miles said. “We’ll play that nickel package in some marginal downs and distances.”

Crazy stat of the day: LSU hasn't won its first six SEC games of the season since 1961.

VIDEO BREAK: If there's one person we wouldn't blame for being tired of the LSU-Alabama hype, it's CBS analyst Gary Danielson, who' been previewing the game in one form or another seemingly since the start of October. But that's also made Danielson as knowledgable as anyone on the game, so we suggests watching the two following clips as Danielson discusses the game first for CBSSports.com, and then on the Tony Barnhart Show:





THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA:
How much can Trent Richardson bench press? God only knows, and we mean that literally: neither Richardson himself nor his trainers have a firm figure since said trainers won't allow Richardson to press more than 475 pounds. "I did 475 easily," Richardson told the Dan Patrick Show, "and they won't let go above 475." (Less interesting, but more germane to preparation for Saturday: when asked which LSU defenders stood out on film, Richardson mentioned a safety we assume is leading tackler Brandon Taylor and Morris Claiborne ... and not a certain Honey Badger.)

Reporters allowed to get a glimpse of Wednesday's practice reported that Tide backup running back Eddie Lacy was still exhibiting a "noticeable limp," the sophomore having injured his foot against Arkansas Sept. 24. But LAcy wore a full-contact white jersey at the practice and Nick Saban said he had no injury news to report. "We don't have any personnel injuries, problems or anything you don't know about. Everybody's been practicing all week,” Saban said.

The guess here: Lacy isn't 100 percent. But whatever percent he is, it's nowhere near low enough to keep him out of a game like this.

And we're guessing everyone saw this coming as soon as ticket prices hit quadruple digits, but yes, there's counterfeits out there. Be careful if you're getting yours late.
Posted on: October 27, 2011 5:07 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 5:34 pm
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 27: Special teams edge?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.



DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 9, or the number worn by Jordan Jefferson. Jarrett Lee obviously isn't going anywhere as the Tiger starter, but could Jefferson see even more time than usual as the designated change-of-pace? The senior has ranged from effective-to-excellent in his two meetings with the Tide, going 10-of-17 for 6.7 yards-an-attempt (above-average numbers by the Tide's defensive standards) and a touchdown in 2009 and a sterling 10-of-13 for 10.8 an attempt with another TD last season. Lee isn't the same quarterback he was when squaring off with the Tide in 2008 and 2009, but still, the difference in the two signal-callers is staggering; in three career meetings vs. Alabama Lee has completed just 41 percent of his passes for 5.7 yards an attempt with a hideous 1-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Something for Les Miles to think about?

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Who has the advantage on special teams? And how much of an impact will special teams play have?

To answer the second question first: a tremendous impact, most likely, particularly where LSU's offense is concerned. As we've mentioned multiple times before, what's special about the Bayou Bengal attack -- ranked 78th in the FBS in total offense -- isn't its explosiveness (though with Rueben Randle, it can be explosive) or its ability to grind out long drives (though with Spencer Ware, it can grind out long drives). What is special is its ruthless efficiency in converting its scoring opportunities into maximum points, as the Tigers' 97 percent scoring rate (second-best in the FBS) and 79 percent touchdown rate (third-best) on their red zone possessions illustrates.

But to get those opportunities, LSU sometimes needs the help of its special teams. And as they always have under Miles, those special teams have offered their help in a big way, to the tune of the 15th-best unit in the country per Phil Steele's rankings. Even casual fans can likely pinpoint a handful of Tiger special teams plays that have had game-turning consequences: Tyrann Mathieu's forced fumble and TD return in punt coverage vs. Oregon, Morris Claiborne's 99-yard return for touchdown against West Virginia, punter Brad Wing's infamous shoulda-been touchdown on a fake vs. Florida.

But to anyone who remembers only those plays and decides that special teams is a guaranteed win for the Tigers, Marquis Maze would like to have a word with you:



In many areas, the two special teams units' are in a statistical dead heat. In kickoff returns, Alabama ranks 34th in the FBS, LSU (despite Claiborne's return) 37th. Kickoff return yardage allowed, LSU ranks 32nd, Alabama 34th. Neither team has hit a field goal longer than 50 yards yet this season (in three total tries), but both teams are money inside of 50: LSU's Drew Alleman is 10-of-11, Alabama's Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster 12-of-14.

All of which is to say it's the punting game where the special teams battle is likely to be decided. Thanks to a huge year from Wing and a punt coverage team allowing less than a yard in returns per game, the Tigers rank sixth in the nation at just over 41 net yards per punt--a huge leg up on the Tide's 36-yard average and 71st ranking. But the Tigers may not have the return unit to take advantage of that generosity -- their 8-yard average ranks 63rd -- while Maze and the 18th-ranked Tide punt return could put a big dent in that glittering LSU net punting average.

The bottom line? Special teams are going to play a massive role in swinging the outcome--but despite giving the Tigers the slightest of edges based on Wing's ability to neutralize Maze and Miles's propensity for the successful fake, it's too close to call which team gets that swing.

THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: If you're surprised to hear that tickets for what's arguably be the biggest regular season game in SEC history have become extraordinarily expensive, you are surprised very easily. But that they're going for more three times the highest recorded value for an SEC championship game -- $5,000 to $1,500 on Stubhub, according to CBSSports.com RapidReporter Glenn Guilbeau -- is a pretty effective testimonial to demand all the same.

Despite Alabama's reputation as being every bit LSU's equals when it comes to grinding opponents to dust in the rushing game, the Birmingham News found that the Tigers have been substantially more committed to the run this season, throwing on first down half as often as the Tide and running on a full two-thirds of all downs as oppose to the Tide's 58 percent.

To hear Miles tell it, though, those statistics may not mean as much as they'd seem to mean come game time:
“With an extra week to prepare, we go through a self [evaluation], and whatever statistics or tendencies that we have, we try very significantly to break them,” Miles said. “It becomes an open week issue for me and those coordinators to make sure that there’s some change that reflects our standard play but also reflects what would allow us to change up what would be a very strong tendency ... we’ll play more against LSU in this open week more than we’ll play against Alabama.”
More good injury news for LSU: center P.J. Lonergan is officially a go, and the renewed health of veteran backup T-Bob Hebert means the Tiger line is the healthiest it's been since the start of the season.

VIDEO BREAK: Didn't get enough discussion of the possibility of an LSU-Alabama title game rematch in yesterday's Daily? Then check out CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd answering that looming question on the CBS Sports Network's Tony Barnhart Show:



THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA: If you ever doubt that the Crimson Tide have taken on the personaliy of their coach, try hearing a Tide player talk about an upcoming game sometime. A player like, say, linebacker Nico Johnson, when asked about the building hype on campus:
“I got asked about it by a teacher, but I try to avoid the question,” Johnson said. “If you get overwhelmed, get too emotional, or think about it all the time, bad things happen.”
We don't think Nick Saban could have said it any better himself. And speaking of Saban, both he and his Nov. 5 coaching counterpart have been named to the 20-member Bryant Award watch list, given annually to the nation's college football Coach of the Year.

Again from the Birmingham News, one paragraph to sum up the obscene dominance of the Alabama defense at this point in the season:
Alabama has given up six TDs, 55 points, 6.9 points per game, 359 rushing yards, 1.67 yards per carry, two rushing TDs, 44.88 rushing yards per game, 48.1 percent completion rate, 4.5 yards per passing attempt, four passing TDs, 83.68 passing efficiency rating, 1,444 total yards, 3.2 yards per play, 180.5 yards per game (42.4 yards per game better than second-place Michigan State), 21 rushing first downs, 79 first downs and 9.9 first downs per game -- all national lows. Alabama's 47 passes broken up and 56 passes defended are national highs.
If you're counting, that's an FBS-best mark in 19 different statistical categories.

Posted on: October 24, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 2:39 pm
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 24: How rare is 1-vs-2?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.



DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 12, or the jersey number worn by Greg McElroy when he threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns in the Crimson Tide's 24-15 victory over LSU Nov. 7, 2009. (12 was also the jersey number worn by Bear Bryant and other Tide legends like Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler.) Also the number worn by Jarrett Lee (above), who'll have to do something similar to pull out a victory in Tuscaloosa in 12 days.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Alabama is obviously an epic, historic matchup. But how epic? How historic? How often does No. 1 play No. 2, particularly in the regular season?

The ascension of the BCS national championship game has meant that 1-vs.-2 events are much more common than they used to be, since by BCS mandate the nation's top two teams have to finish the season by playing each other. (There used to be rare exceptions in which the BCS formula would override the polls -- as in 2003, when consensus polling No. 1 USC played No. 4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl -- but the updated polls-make-up-two-thirds formula makes this highly unlikely.) But that doesn't mean they're frequent by any stretch of the imagination, with The Tide and Tigers' showdown only the 46th such meeting in 75 years of the AP poll.

But even that roughly three-every-five-years ratio doesn't do anything like justice to the rarity of LSU-Alabama 2011. For one thing, regular season 1-vs-2 matchups only account for 22 of those 45 occurences, with bowls and conference championship games representing the other 23.

LSU-Alabama will be the first such game in five years, with No. 1 Ohio State's defeat of No. 2 Michigan in 2006 the most recent example. It's also the earliest in the season Nos. 1 and 2 have met since the top-ranked Buckeyes took on No. 2, defending national champion Texas on Sept. 9 that same 2006 season.

But here's the kicker: LSU-Alabama is the first ever 1-vs-2 regular season matchup between SEC teams. It's never happened. Both the 2008 and 2009 SEC championship games were 1-vs-2 meetings involving Alabama and Florida, but that's as close as the SEC has come to what we'll see Nov. 5.

So yes, we'd say the answer to "how epic/historic?" is "very." (For an updated list of every 1-vs-2 matchup in Division I history, check out page 87 of this NCAA PDF.)

THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA: With All-American Barrett Jones having taken over (and thrived at) the Tide's left tackle spot, five-star freshman lineman Cyrus Kouandjio wasn't likely to see major time against the Tigers unless Jones left the game with an injury.

But the news that Kouandjio has had knee surgery and is expected to miss the remainder of the season is a blow to the Tide all the same; not only would he have been Jones' immediate replacement at tackle should one be needed, but Jones's versatility also meant that Kouandjio might have gotten the nod if Jones was needed as an emergency replacement as one of the guard spots. Kouandjio's absence substantially limits the Tide's options should the worst-case scenario occur.

But if Nick Saban sounds angry and curt at his next press conference (well, moreso than usual), that might not be the issue. Via Birmingham News reporter Izzy Gould, here's a photo of Saban's car being ticketed in Birmingham Monday (and yes, the ticketer was made aware of the identity of her ticketee):



Saban was in Birmingham to speak to the city's Monday Morning Quarterback Club, who he told he wasn't worried about his team's slow start against Tennessee. Why? Because "Ali didn't knock out everyone in the first round."

THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: Should we hold off on presuming the "Synthetic Three" of Tyrann Mathieu, Spencer Ware and Tharold Simon will be back from suspension to face the Tide? It seems LSU chancellor Michael Martin would like us to, telling USA Today that their status for the game has not yet been decided. Martin said their availability was out of Les Miles's hands and would be determined by athletic director Joe Alleva.

"The athletic director will ultimately make the decision, (and) he'll consult with me," said Martin. "Fortunately for them and the team, they have two weeks to get their act together because we have a bye week. They have been directed to some counseling, and they will now be subject to greater scrutiny for the remainder of their time at LSU."

Obviously, losing three players of Mathieu's, Ware's and Simon's abilities would be a monumental blow. But given what's at stake and that this appears to be a first offense, it will be a major shock if all three aren't in uniform to face the Tide.

One player who doesn't want to wait these 12 long days ahead before the game: LSU senior lineman T-Bob Hebert. "I get goose bumps talking about it," he said. "I can't wait. A game like this doesn't come along very often - or ever." (As pointed out above: it doesn't.)

Posted on: August 30, 2011 12:40 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 12:42 pm
 

LSU G Dworaczyk injures knee, out for 'some time'

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Just when you'd think things couldn't get any worse for LSU, they get worse.

Les Miles announced Monday night that starting senior guard Josh Dworaczyk has reaggravated a lingering knee injury from the 2010 season and will undergo surgery. Though the injury is not believed to be season-ending, Dworaczyk will miss the majority of the 2011 campaign.

"We'll lose him for some time," Miles said.

If there's any silver lining to Dworaczyk's absence, it's that the Tigers have at least one quality replacement and probably two. Miles said that Dworaczyk's spot would be filled by either senior T-Bob Hebert or true freshman La'el Collins--or, more likely, a combination of both. While Hebert is a veteran performer who's started 18 games the prior two seasons at both center and guard, Collins is a five-star recruit who's impressed throughout camp and whose potential Miles has done little to hide his enthusiasm for.

"I think you look at T-Bob, but I think a guy like La’el Collins has the ability," Miles said. "And we don’t want to slow him up. We want to get him to the field quickly."

Nonetheless, there seems little question that going from Dworaczyk to either replacement will be a step down of some degree. The senior's absence from Saturday's opener against Oregon will snap a streak of 23 consecutive starts at left guard, and though snubbed by the official SEC coaches and media preseason all-conference teams, Dworaczyk was named to guru Phil Steele's All-SEC second-team and various other lists of the league's best linemen.

That loss may be made all the worse by the other issues surrounding the Tiger offense. With both Jordan Jefferson and Russell Shepard suspended, LSU may have to rely even more heavily on their run game than expected--a run game a seasoned, talented guard like Dworaczyk would have helped immensely.

With Hebert and Collins around, it's doubtful Dworaczyk's injury will be a make-or-break issue for the Tigers. But the events of the past month means Miles no doubt would like all hands on deck, and now Dworaczyk represents one very polished, very steady set of hands that won't be.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com