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Tag:Jordan Jefferson
Posted on: July 11, 2011 2:29 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 2:57 pm
 

LSU's Jefferson: 'I'm the starter, hands-down'

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It was quite the interesting weekend for LSU's Jordan Jefferson at the prestigious Manning Passing Academy. On the (training) field, Jefferson made waves by performing well enough for no less an authority than Chris Mortensen to include him in the same Twitter breath with Landry Jones and Andrew Luck.

But what Jefferson did off the field Friday afternoon might have had even more impact. Asked about the possibility of yielding his starting position to JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger, Jefferson had this to say (emphasis added):
“You hear it a lot, but in reality, I will be the starter, hands down,” Jefferson said.
He continued.
“Even though I know I’m the starter, you also have to stay humble at times because you never know what can happen,” Jefferson said. “I’m doing the best of my abilities to teach Mettenberger the full game since I’ve been here for three years. There’s going to come a point of time where he will be the starter so just passing down the knowledge will benefit him a lot.”
Clearly, Jefferson doesn't see the LSU quarterback "battle" as one between colleagues in which he's only a favorite; he sees it as something other than a battle entirely, a mentor-pupil relationship in which Mettenberger's ascension (barring injury) is as unlikely as Josh Nunes usupring Luck at Stanford.

Based on Les Miles's comments this past spring, he may not be entirely wrong, and there's no question Jefferson will begin LSU's 2011 season under center. But we nonetheless have to question whether Jefferson doesn't seem to be overcompensating for some legitimate, nagging worry with an attitude that -- we feel -- borders on cockiness.

Of course, if Jefferson shows the improvement shown off at the Manning Academy (and Mortenson wasn't alone in his assessment), he really won't have anything to worry about. But the last time LSU fans got a look at him, he was busy going 4-of-14 in the Bayou Bengals' spring game without a touchdown. Until he takes the field against Oregon and proves that performance -- and all the other mediocre performances of the past three seasons -- are behind him, the doubts are going to persist.

Posted on: April 28, 2011 2:34 pm
 

Eye on CFB Roundtable: Who's No. 1?

By Eye on College Football Bloggers

Each week, the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron-style to answer a pressing question regarding the wild, wide world of college football. This week's topic:

With a few scattered exceptions, spring practice is in the books. As we enter summer and start looking at the 2011 season in earnest, let's start that looking at the top: who deserves to be the preseason No. 1?

Tom Fornelli: If I were forced to choose a number one team at gunpoint like I am now, I would have to agree with most people and go with Oklahoma. 

The Big 12 just got a little easier to navigate now that Nebraska is gone and there's no longer a conference championship game to get through. Texas is coming off of a down year, and while I think they'll be improved in 2011, I think last year showed that the Longhorns aren't ready to compete for a national title again right away.

Which leaves Oklahoma, returning both Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles on offense, without much resistance in the Big 12. Yes, there's Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, but I don't see Oklahoma State making a key defensive stop when it needs one against the Sooners. As for the Aggies, I just don't trust Mike Sherman yet. So I don't think it's insane to believe that the Sooners are going to get through the season without a loss in 2011. That's enough to make them my extremely premature preseason No. 1.

Adam Jacobi: I agree with Tom. OU doesn't have everybody back, but they have enough to navigate a pretty lackluster Big 12 Which Is Now Actually 10. Look out for Alabama too, because Trent Richardson is going to have an absolutely monster year. But we'll need to see how the quarterback situation shakes out before tossing out terms like "top-ranked" to describe that team.

Bryan Fischer:  I think it's easy to peg Oklahoma as the pre-season No. 1, but that doesn't mean I'd pencil - and I do mean pencil - them in at the top. The Sooners do return their quarterback in Jones, a dynamic threat at receiver in Broyles and a great defensive leader in linebacker Travis Lewis. Their schedule does set up well for them, outside of a dangerous trip to Tallahassee to take on a Florida State team they beat 47-17 last year. 

That said, I have to go with Alabama. Let's face it: the champion at the end of the year usually comes from the SEC, so that's a good place to start. The Crimson Tide have to break in a new quarterback but I think the schedule will allow them to ease into things, with the big road game at Penn State teaching them to handle a hostile crowd. Plus, either guy gets to hand off to the best running back in the country in Richardson. The defense should be great again and they get both LSU and Arkansas at home.

AJ: I suppose this necessitates the question of by "No. 1," whether we're choosing the best team in Week 1 or the most likely team to run the table. Because I'm feeling OU more for the former and UA for the latter. But it's a good philosophical question regardless. Thoughts?

Chip Patterson:  I think that this far out from the regular season, you have to define "No. 1" as the team most prepared to win the title right now. In my eyes, that is Oklahoma. 

However, I would agree that Alabama - and also LSU - could find themselves in another SEC West dogfight should Florida State knock off Oklahoma in Tallahassee. Florida State is far from the team that got worked in Norman a year ago, returning 18 starters from a team that beat SEC East champion South Carolina in the Chick Fil-A Bowl. If Oklahoma slips to the Seminoles early in the season, then the Bayou Bengals' trip to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5 becomes another one of those marquee SEC regular season bloodbaths which have become an annual event the last couple seasons. 

But until they slip and fall, the Sooners look most prepared to run the table right now - and they are my No. 1.

Jerry Hinnen: Adam's question is one that it would be nice for the mainstream polls to answer for us with some kind of stated policy, as opposed to their current "Do What You Feel" preseason approach. My take is that it's more fair to start the season with (as Chip says) the best team at the top regardless of schedule, then adjust as the season results pour in.  But it's much more fun to try and predict who'll wind up standing atop the mountain when all is said and done.

So that's what I'll do, and I'll also predict "Alabama." I don't expect the Tide to run the table against the strongest single division in college football (even with Auburn taking a step back, there's still LSU, underrated Arkansas and ever-improving Mississippi State plus an Iron Bowl on the road), but after two years with a BCS national title game matching up undefeated opponents, we're overdue for at least one one-loss team to make the championship tilt. And once an SEC team gets that far, it's been the safest of bets -- to-date -- to take that final step to the crystal football.

Two final points to wrap things up:

1. At the very least, we've got a consensus on who the top two teams are. Our colleague Dennis Dodd named LSU his early-early No. 1,  but after seeing Jordan Jefferson continue to flail in the Tigers' spring game, it's hard to see them coming out of Tuscaloosa with a win. And behind those three, is there anyone else we'd feel comfortable naming as a contender? Oregon has suffered major defensive losses; Ohio State could face the entire season without Jim Tressel; Stanford and Oklahoma State and Nebraska have all undergone substantial offensive coaching overhauls; and at the mid-major level, TCU and Boise State were (probably) both better a year ago.

In fact, it might be Florida State that's better positioned to make a run than any of those teams. Which brings me to my next point:

2. Even if the overall nonconference slate is more cupcake-laden than ever, we have not one but two games in September -- LSU hosting Oregon and the aforementioned Sooners-Seminoles clash -- matching up legitimate top-10 teams with national title aspirations. That's two more than most years, so you won't hear any complaints about 2011's non-league scheduling from me.

Posted on: April 20, 2011 3:06 pm
 

SEC Post-Spring Conference Call Recap

Posted by Bryan Fischer

All twelve SEC head coaches jumped on board a conference call to talk about their Spring Practices. Here's a few notes on what each coach said.

Les Miles, LSU

On senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson:

"He gets it out of his hand so quickly now and goes through his reads much quicker," Miles said. "There's much less hesitation in his decision-making process. I also think going into your senior year, there's a want to have a great senior year, and the leadership position is something your quarterback must embrace.

Miles also said that new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe has been a major help for all of the quarterbacks on the roster. Backups Zach Mettenberger and Jarrett Lee pushed Jefferson this spring and will continue to do so in the fall, which makes the team better.

Will Muschamp, Florida

On quarterback John Brantley this spring:

"I’m really pleased with his poise, leadership and habits off the field studying what we need to do to be successful,” Muschamp said. “He’s got the ability and we’re very pleased.”

On Brantley's tough spring game:

“I don’t think in the spring game John had much of a chance,” Muschamp said. “I was behind him and saw it coming pretty fast, too.”

Muschamp made Florida's policy on grayshirting very clear, in that they don't do it period. He also mentioned that Javares McRoy transferred because he wants to play with his brother and Chris Dunkley left because, "sometimes things don't fit." All the injured Florida players should be healthy and ready to go this summer.

Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

On oversigning:

"Well, we like the way the rule is now because we actually sign four or five guys that are on the bubble of qualifying. This year we've got about five that haven't quite done it and probably three that won't make it," Spurrier said. "We could not sign all of our guys which was embarrassing for us a little bit and for them. Sometimes time heals a lot of wounds. It appears that one guy in particular will be able to sign and come with us when all the freshmen report. Our state education is.. a lot of them are borderline of qualifying or not. It's helpful for the University of South Carolina to be able to oversign."

Spurrier touched on suspended quarterback Steven Garcia, which you can read more about here. It's the Old Ball Coach's 66th birthday today and he said he was teeing off with Boo Weekley at a pro-am this afternoon. Spurrier was upbeat on current quarterback Connor Shaw, even joking he "is from our planet," in contrast to Garcia.

James Franklin, Vanderbilt

On the challenge at Vandy:

"I love the word daunting. To me, it's an opportunity, it's a challenge," Franklin said. "Just like everything else in life, it's how you look at it and perceive the situation. The way myself, this staff and this program looks at it, we have a chance to really do something special."

Franklin said the team stayed healthy for the most part this spring which was key because of depth issues. The spring was mainly about laying a foundation and the head coach felt they did that.

Derek Dooley, Tennessee

On the fan base being more united with some stability in the program:

"I hope fans see a coach who wants to be here and appreciates the tradition and the history of Tennessee football and has a good systematic approach on and off the field," Dooley said.

The head coach also said his honeymoon was over with the fans and that it ended at kickoff of last season. Dooley dismissed some of the struggles of quarterback Tyler Bray in the spring game because of the way he performed throughout the spring. He briefly touched on the 'Dooley Rule' that was implemented requiring a runoff of time in the last minute of a game on a penalty and said that it makes the game better.

Nick Saban, Alabama

On meeting with players to evaluate their progress:

"We go over a player's strengths, weaknesses, things he needs to work on, academic circumstance, personal issues, problems, leadership things he can contribute," Saban said. "It's pretty comprehensive to sit down and talk, sort of develop a plan for what that person needs to do to be successful personally, academically and athletically." 

Saban discussed the quarterback battle between Phillip Sims and A.J. McCarron, including the possibility of playing both. Saban mentioned walk-on defensive back Ranzell Watkins as one player who is in the competition for a starting job because of his hard work this spring.

Bobby Petrino, Arkansas

On the QB battle between Tyler Wilson and Brandon Mitchell:

"I think they still have a long way to go," Petrino said. "They both have great leadership qualities but they have a ways to go to do their job well so they can lead by example first."

Petrino said the Spring Game was one of the most attended in history and was a big deal because it was televised. He was pleased with figuring some of his offensive line out this spring and thought his defense showed off the veteran unit's maturity. Petrino mentioned having four good receivers will help the offense tremendously no matter the quarterback.

Houston Nutt, Ole Miss

On QB Randall Mackey's spring:

"I thought Randall Mackey had an outstanding spring," Nutt said. "You can see why he was a junior college All-American quarterback. He can really spin the play and buy some time, he has some escapablity and is very accurate. We knew he could be in the shotgun but he got up under center much better."

Nutt said Mackey was ahead in the quarterback derby but nothing is finalized until this fall. He thought the few seniors on the team really stepped up and showed great leadership. Nutt also liked the way the defensive tackles got better as the spring went on and felt they also became more physical. He labeled Wesley Pendleton as the surprise of the spring.

Mark Richt, Georgia

On spring practice overall:

"I think we got better, we practiced with the right amount of intensity," Richt said. "We competed well, guys were competing for jobs, competing in offense versus defense."

Richt said the offensive tackle situation is fluid and still up in the air and the third guy could end up playing both left and right tackle. Richt said he wouldn't ban social media for his players because he knows it's such a big part of their lives. "They sacrifice enough with the amount of time they put in," he said. Richt did mention that it would be an issue if a guy is irresponsible with it. Richt wouldn't comment on the locker room thefts that occurred a few weeks ago.

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

On the quarterback position:

“The competition, to me, is wide open right now,” Mullen said. “Chris Relf, obviously, did a great job this spring. I don’t know if he separated himself from all the other guys but he also has the experience and has played in the game and has done nothing to not be our top quarterback at this point going into the summer.”

Mullen didn't comment on any of the injuries on the team. He mentioned that since there were so many young players, it was good to get some practice time with them and they did a great job. He said the defense won't really change with the departure of Manny Diaz but that they would try a few new things. Mullen said he doesn't have a top-flight wide out but the group overall is very solid.

Gene Chizik, Auburn

On the all the distractions around the program:

"We only focus on one thing and that's what we can control,' Chizik said. "We know we're doing everything the right way and feel good about the direction of the program. We don't pay attention to any outside distractions."

Chizik thought there was an eagerness to learn from the younger players on the team but they have a long ways to go. He wanted the quarterbacks to be more consistency and will be a battle into the fall. Incoming quarterback Kiehl Fraizer will be in the mix as well.

Joker Phillips, Kentucky

On what he's gotten out of spring football:

"I've really been pleased with the progress of our team defensively," Phillips said. "I'm really pleased after 14 practices that we're getting the best personnel on the field and we're unitizing some of our better people."

Phillips liked the development of the quarterbacks and feels they can be a better passing team in the fall. He said they're in "desperate need" of somebody stepping up on the perimeter at wide receiver and being a playmaker.

Posted on: April 19, 2011 4:42 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 4:55 pm
 

What I Learned This Spring: SEC West

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the SEC West, team by team. In alphabetical order:

ALABAMA: The two big headlines for Tide fans this spring were the quarterback battle between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims (pictured), and the unveiling of the new Nick Saban statue added to those of the school's first three national title-winning head coaches. As our own Dennis Dodd reported (and as you can hear for yourself in the reverent tone of this student news broadcast), the statue left the Tide faithful plenty satisfied; the quarterback battle, not so much, as neither McCarron nor Sims was able to create any real separation from the other. (How close were they? At A-Day, McCarron went 21-of-38 for 222 yards and one interception, Sims 19-of-38 for 229 yards and an interception.)

But as we pointed out in our Tide spring primer, who's at the reins of the offense isn't nearly as important as whether the offense can remain productive without Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, et al. With Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower each looking like terrors this spring in the linebacking unit and All-American safety Mark Barron showing few ill effects of his postseason pectoral muscle surgery (he returned a fumble 96 yards for a score at A-Day), the defense looks poised to live up the "best in the nation, or damn close" expectations. All the offense has to do is not screw things up, and the running game -- behind Trent Richardson, a dynamo on A-Day with 167 all-purpose yards, and a loaded line with former five-star right tackle D.J. Fluker beginning to fulfill his vast potential -- appeared ready to do the job nearly by itself.

The Tide still haven't found what looks like a go-to receiver in the wake of Jones' departure (Richardson led both sides in receptions and yards at A-Day), and the McCarron/Sims derby could be a distraction lasting well into the fall. But given the help either one will receive from the running game (and line) on display Saturday, none of that might matter.

ARKANSAS: The big question before spring started was simply "can the Hogs handle losing Ryan Mallett?" And though the Red-White game certainly isn't a guarantee, it's definitely an arrow pointed in the direction of "goodness, yes." Likely new quarterback Tyler Wilson averaged 9.7 yards per his 25 attempts, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His receiving corps -- on paper, the SEC's best, hands-down -- lived up to its billing, with Jarius Wright hauling in five balls for 157 yards and two scores. The White team defense had its moments, too, holding All-SEC candidate Knile Davis to just 44 yards on 16 carries.

The Hogs' spring wasn't perfect -- backup tailback Broderick Green went down for the year with an ACL tear -- and Bobby Petrino hasn't even officially named Wilson the starter yet. But with the quarterback position looking solid and the defense boasting its best spring in years, the loss of Mallett sure hasn't put much of a dent in the Hogs' new position as West challengers just yet.

AUBURN: The Tigers entered the spring looking for playmakers to fill at least part of the colossal void left by Cam Newton's and Nick Fairley's departures. And at defensive end, they may have found some; sophomores Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae both drew positive reviews throughout the spring, and previously little-used junior Dee Ford burst into the rotation with a big camp and a pair of sacks at Auburn's A-Day game. New line coach Mike Pelton said he was impressed by -- and would use -- all three this fall.

The rest of the defense didn't have a shabby A-Day, either, as they defeated the offense 63-32 in Gene Chizik's unique scrimmage scoring system. But most of the offense's efforts went towards polishing up the passing attack (tailbacks Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb combined for just seven carries), and those efforts didn't yield much in terms in terms of finding big-play potential. Tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen (pictured) won MVP honors for his 65 yards receiving and catching the lone touchdown of the scrimmage, and DeAngelo Benton added one 48-yard reception. But otherwise, offensive excitement was hard to come by, and Chizik afterwards called the quarterbacking from Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley "inconsistent." (The two will compete for the starting job into the fall.)

Under Chizik, Auburn hasn't made much of an effort to put on a show in their spring game -- the reviews on Newton's debut in the 2010 version were universally ho-hum -- but there still seems little doubt Gus Malzahn will look for much more explosiveness out of his attack come fall camp.

LSU: It's the same old story on the bayou. The Tigers entered spring hoping to finally put their quarterbacking issues to rest behind someone, be it incumbent starter Jordan Jefferson or someone else ... and left it with Jefferson still the starter and still on less-than-firm ground after an ugly 4-of-14, no touchdowns, one interception performance.

Well, less-than-firm ground with the LSU fanbase , anyway. Bayou Bengal supporters seem to have universally pinned their hopes on JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger, despite Mettenberger being mired at third on the depth chart entering the spring game. But you can't blame them when Jefferson struggled the way he did, Jarrett Lee averaged all of 4.5 yards per-attempt (with a pick, of course) and Mettenberger did this:
 


None of that made any difference to Les Miles and the LSU staff, who gave Jefferson the team's "Jim Taylor Award" for his spring effort and leadership. And quarterback or no quarterback, LSU showed how formidable they'd be all the same: Spencer Ware followed up his breakout Cotton Bowl performance with a huge spring, the secondary looks as airtight as ever even without Patrick Peterson, and there's plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball.

But unless Jefferson lives up to his coaches' faith in him -- and that spring game performance did little to assure anyone he will -- LSU's still going to have some headaches.

MISSISSIPPI STATE, OLE MISS: Despite their wildly divergent 2010 seasons, the question for both Mississippi schools was the same entering the spring: how would their defenses fare after losing several major contributors from last year?

In Oxford, that question was all the more important for last year's defense having been such a disappointment in the first place. And it got even harder to answer mid-spring when potentially the unit's best player, linebacker D.J. Shackelford, was lost for the year with an ACL tear. The Rebel defense had a successful spring game all the same, holding the two offenses to just 27 total points and scoring seven of their own on an Ivan Nicholas interception return. But coming against a Rebel offense in flux after seeing former JUCO Randall Mackey ascend to the likely starter's job (and former favorite Nathan Stanley leave the program), the jury will remain out despite the positive signs.

Up the road in Starkville, the news seemed more unambiguously positive: Dan Mullen said his defensive line "dominated" the Marron-White Game, producing 11 tackles-for-loss. The Bulldogs already seemed happy with their new linebackers, and that was before redshirt freshman Ferlando Bohanna blew up for eight tackles and a pair of sacks in the spring game. The secondary may remain a work-in-progress (State quarterbacks, including backup Dylan "Yes, That" Favre, combined to average a healthy 7.8 yards per-attempt), but the front seven looks like it shouldn't take too big a step back.

We'll cover the SEC East next week once the slowpokes at Kentucky hold their spring game this weekend.


Posted on: April 19, 2011 4:42 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 4:55 pm
 

What I Learned This Spring: SEC West

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the SEC West, team by team. In alphabetical order:

ALABAMA: The two big headlines for Tide fans this spring were the quarterback battle between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims (pictured), and the unveiling of the new Nick Saban statue added to those of the school's first three national title-winning head coaches. As our own Dennis Dodd reported (and as you can hear for yourself in the reverent tone of this student news broadcast), the statue left the Tide faithful plenty satisfied; the quarterback battle, not so much, as neither McCarron nor Sims was able to create any real separation from the other. (How close were they? At A-Day, McCarron went 21-of-38 for 222 yards and one interception, Sims 19-of-38 for 229 yards and an interception.)

But as we pointed out in our Tide spring primer, who's at the reins of the offense isn't nearly as important as whether the offense can remain productive without Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, et al. With Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower each looking like terrors this spring in the linebacking unit and All-American safety Mark Barron showing few ill effects of his postseason pectoral muscle surgery (he returned a fumble 96 yards for a score at A-Day), the defense looks poised to live up the "best in the nation, or damn close" expectations. All the offense has to do is not screw things up, and the running game -- behind Trent Richardson, a dynamo on A-Day with 167 all-purpose yards, and a loaded line with former five-star right tackle D.J. Fluker beginning to fulfill his vast potential -- appeared ready to do the job nearly by itself.

The Tide still haven't found what looks like a go-to receiver in the wake of Jones' departure (Richardson led both sides in receptions and yards at A-Day), and the McCarron/Sims derby could be a distraction lasting well into the fall. But given the help either one will receive from the running game (and line) on display Saturday, none of that might matter.

ARKANSAS: The big question before spring started was simply "can the Hogs handle losing Ryan Mallett?" And though the Red-White game certainly isn't a guarantee, it's definitely an arrow pointed in the direction of "goodness, yes." Likely new quarterback Tyler Wilson averaged 9.7 yards per his 25 attempts, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His receiving corps -- on paper, the SEC's best, hands-down -- lived up to its billing, with Jarius Wright hauling in five balls for 157 yards and two scores. The White team defense had its moments, too, holding All-SEC candidate Knile Davis to just 44 yards on 16 carries.

The Hogs' spring wasn't perfect -- backup tailback Broderick Green went down for the year with an ACL tear -- and Bobby Petrino hasn't even officially named Wilson the starter yet. But with the quarterback position looking solid and the defense boasting its best spring in years, the loss of Mallett sure hasn't put much of a dent in the Hogs' new position as West challengers just yet.

AUBURN: The Tigers entered the spring looking for playmakers to fill at least part of the colossal void left by Cam Newton's and Nick Fairley's departures. And at defensive end, they may have found some; sophomores Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae both drew positive reviews throughout the spring, and previously little-used junior Dee Ford burst into the rotation with a big camp and a pair of sacks at Auburn's A-Day game. New line coach Mike Pelton said he was impressed by -- and would use -- all three this fall.

The rest of the defense didn't have a shabby A-Day, either, as they defeated the offense 63-32 in Gene Chizik's unique scrimmage scoring system. But most of the offense's efforts went towards polishing up the passing attack (tailbacks Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb combined for just seven carries), and those efforts didn't yield much in terms in terms of finding big-play potential. Tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen (pictured) won MVP honors for his 65 yards receiving and catching the lone touchdown of the scrimmage, and DeAngelo Benton added one 48-yard reception. But otherwise, offensive excitement was hard to come by, and Chizik afterwards called the quarterbacking from Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley "inconsistent." (The two will compete for the starting job into the fall.)

Under Chizik, Auburn hasn't made much of an effort to put on a show in their spring game -- the reviews on Newton's debut in the 2010 version were universally ho-hum -- but there still seems little doubt Gus Malzahn will look for much more explosiveness out of his attack come fall camp.

LSU: It's the same old story on the bayou. The Tigers entered spring hoping to finally put their quarterbacking issues to rest behind someone, be it incumbent starter Jordan Jefferson or someone else ... and left it with Jefferson still the starter and still on less-than-firm ground after an ugly 4-of-14, no touchdowns, one interception performance.

Well, less-than-firm ground with the LSU fanbase , anyway. Bayou Bengal supporters seem to have universally pinned their hopes on JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger, despite Mettenberger being mired at third on the depth chart entering the spring game. But you can't blame them when Jefferson struggled the way he did, Jarrett Lee averaged all of 4.5 yards per-attempt (with a pick, of course) and Mettenberger did this:
 


None of that made any difference to Les Miles and the LSU staff, who gave Jefferson the team's "Jim Taylor Award" for his spring effort and leadership. And quarterback or no quarterback, LSU showed how formidable they'd be all the same: Spencer Ware followed up his breakout Cotton Bowl performance with a huge spring, the secondary looks as airtight as ever even without Patrick Peterson, and there's plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball.

But unless Jefferson lives up to his coaches' faith in him -- and that spring game performance did little to assure anyone he will -- LSU's still going to have some headaches.

MISSISSIPPI STATE, OLE MISS: Despite their wildly divergent 2010 seasons, the question for both Mississippi schools was the same entering the spring: how would their defenses fare after losing several major contributors from last year?

In Oxford, that question was all the more important for last year's defense having been such a disappointment in the first place. And it got even harder to answer mid-spring when potentially the unit's best player, linebacker D.J. Shackelford, was lost for the year with an ACL tear. The Rebel defense had a successful spring game all the same, holding the two offenses to just 27 total points and scoring seven of their own on an Ivan Nicholas interception return. But coming against a Rebel offense in flux after seeing former JUCO Randall Mackey ascend to the likely starter's job (and former favorite Nathan Stanley leave the program), the jury will remain out despite the positive signs.

Up the road in Starkville, the news seemed more unambiguously positive: Dan Mullen said his defensive line "dominated" the Marron-White Game, producing 11 tackles-for-loss. The Bulldogs already seemed happy with their new linebackers, and that was before redshirt freshman Ferlando Bohanna blew up for eight tackles and a pair of sacks in the spring game. The secondary may remain a work-in-progress (State quarterbacks, including backup Dylan "Yes, That" Favre, combined to average a healthy 7.8 yards per-attempt), but the front seven looks like it shouldn't take too big a step back.

We'll cover the SEC East next week once the slowpokes at Kentucky hold their spring game this weekend.


Posted on: April 4, 2011 11:47 am
 

Jefferson, Lee still atop LSU depth chart

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We noted in our LSU Spring Practice Primer that more than a few Tiger fans were hoping for big things, big immediate things, from JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. With Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee's results the previous three seasons ranging from "decent" to (most often) "mediocre" to "flat embarrassing," you could hardly blame them for crossing their fingers that Mettenberger's blue-chip arm and practice battles with Aaron Murray at Georgia would give their Tigers the consistent passing attack they've craved ever since the departure of Matt Flynn.

As it stands today, though, those fans aren't going to get their wish. In fact, unless Mettenberger finishes spring with a huge flourish, their wish is going to enter fall camp still stuck at third-string, according to Les Miles:
While Jefferson seems to be the clear-cut starter, Miles said senior-to-be Jarrett Lee has the edge on junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger for the backup spot.

“Mettenberger has a very strong arm and makes a lot of nice throws and is really improving,” he said. “I think Jarrett Lee has a very distinct advantage over the time he’s been in the system. And he throws the ball very well, so I think Mettenberger has some time, he’s taking advantage of his coaching. But I think, it’s currently Jefferson and Lee and then Mettenberger.”

So for the fans in question, that's the bad news. And that the ever-wobbly Lee remains one injury away from full-time duty again is probably the worse news.

But there's good news, too, namely that Jefferson has been impressive enough to end the supposed quarterback battle even before it really began. Miles said the senior was making "much better decisions" and threw four touchdown passes in Saturday's scrimmage. If that's the case, it's possible Jefferson's MVP performance in the Cotton Bowl thrashing of Texas A&M was a turning point rather than a one-off blip.

And if that's the case, the Bayou Bengals could very well make good on the championship expectations that have been percolating ever since the 2010 season ended. Even if Mettenberger's initial season in Baton Rouge proves to be more hype than substance, assuming Jefferson's continuing offseason momentum pays dividends on the field, LSU's quarterbacking glass is still more full than empty.

Posted on: March 29, 2011 3:45 pm
 

LSU receivers happy to have Kragthorpe on board

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

This just in: LSU has been really, really terrible the last couple of years at throwing the ball.

OK, so that's not exactly a breaking story. But it does help explain the obvious, vivid frustration of the Bayou Bengal receivers when they discuss the departure of former play-caller Gary Crowton ... and, more importantly, their excitement at the arrival of new play-caller Steve Kragthorpe:
"I think we'll be more aggressive than we were last year," wide receiver Rueben Randle said. "I think we'll take more shots. Like in the scrimmage the other day, the first play, we took a shot down field. It kind of got us all excited as a receiving corps to see that" ...

"I think our passing game was like all messed up last year," tight end/wide receiver DeAngelo Peterson said. "I felt a lot of times last year I was beating linebackers, but the ball wasn't there" ...

"I think he (Kragthorpe) is the guy that we need here to get this offense rolling and make big plays down the field," said Randle, the No. 1 receiver in the nation out of Bastrop two years ago who has caught only five touchdowns in his career. "Throughout this spring, I can tell that coach Kragthorpe, he's pretty much a passing guy. I've got a feeling we're going to throw the ball more than we did. He's just a little more aggressive with the deep ball. He doesn't just call the deep shots whenever the defense gives us that. He takes it to them. That was a little different than what we did last year."
It's not unusual to see players extolling the virtues of a new coach, but the not-so-subtle digs at the previous coach aren't necessarily your run-of-the-mill responses. There's also Peterson's "ball wasn't there" complaint, which might interpreted as a dig at incumbent quarterback Jordan Jefferson. Peterson also wasn't shy about hailing the potential of new JUCO transfer (and former Georgia signal-caller) Zach Mettenberger:
Mettenberger has excelled at the deep ball and has a quicker delivery than Jefferson, who tends to wind up.

"He can throw," Peterson said of Mettenberger. "He's got an accurate arm — a strong arm. I think right now, he's just learning the offense. That's what's holding him back, but he's a good quarterback from what I've seen so far."
The overall tone from the LSU receivers makes it clear that Jefferson is still considered the likely starter ... but it's also clear that Mettenberger has their (and no doubt Les Miles's) attention.

You can't blame the LSU receivers at all for their excitement; players like Randle, Peterson, and Russell Shepard were some of the most highly-prized recruits in the country, and couldn't have imagined they'd spend two years playing for one of the most buttoned-down, ineffective, unexciting passing games this side of the triple option. The hire of Kragthorpe was widely panned after his crash-and-burn tenure as Louisville head coach, but compared to Crowton's final two years, things literally could not get any worse from the LSU passing perspective. His arrival and the potential represented by Mettenberger are, without question, good things for the Tiger receiving corps.

But are they good things for LSU? It's not enough for Kragthorpe to simply open up the offense; it's going to have to be opened up efficiently and effectively, and with a reliable quarterback under center, as anyone who remembers Dave Clawson's 40-pass debacles with Jonathan Crompton at Tennessee could tell you. And with Mettenberger lurking, a team-dividing quarterback controversy could rear its ugly head if Kragthorpe can't get Jefferson to finally fulfill his ample potential.

Yes, LSU's receivers should be excited. But LSU fans, on the other hand, might be better served to take the wait-and-see approach.
Posted on: March 11, 2011 9:05 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 9:08 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: LSU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Here's a look at LSU, who begins spring practice today.

Spring Practice Question: Can anyone be the quarterback LSU needs to win a championship?

As soon as the dust settled on LSU's comprehensive demolition of Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, the stakes for 2011 were set for Les Miles and Co.: it's some form of championship or bust.

The Bayou Bengals have been playing second fiddle and even third fiddle for three straight seasons, not only missing out on those three SEC West titles but missing by a combined ten games. Not only has LSU not gone to Atlanta since their magical run of 2007, they haven't even come close, as their divisional rivals at Alabama and Auburn have barreled their way to national titles. There's a reason (other than his clock management) Miles has somehow ended up in the annual "hot seat" chatter even as he's won 78 percent of his games at LSU.

There's a lot of reasons to think that changes this year. Defensive coordinator John Chavis has taken the Tigers to finishes of 26th and 12th in the nation in total defense his two seasons in Baton Rouge; even without Patrick Peterson, Drake Nevis and the like, fearsome young defenders like end Sam Montgomery and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu should have his unit among the nation's best again. Jumbo senior guards Will Blackwell and Josh Dworaczyk should pave the way for a powerful running game, particularly if rising sophomore running back Spencer Ware can prove his explosive Cotton Bowl performance (102 yards on 10 carries) wasn't a fluke. With former five-star recruits Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard coming into their own as juniors, receiving talent is no problem.

So there's just one question: what's going to happen at quarterback?

OK, two questions, the first being who is going to be the quarterback; expect the overwhelming majority of headlines coming out of the Tigers' spring camp to breathlessly detail the three-way battle between incumbent Jordan Jefferson, his longtime competitor Jarrett Lee, and JUCO-by-way-Georgia- dismissal transfer Zach Mettenberger. It's Mettenberger who represents maybe the most intriguing option , coming in with NFL-quality size (6'5", 247 pounds), a 32-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio at Butler County (Kan.) Community College, and the endorsement that comes with having battled Aaron Murray tooth-and-nail for the Bulldogs' backup quarterback job in 2009. Given the way Lee flailed his way through his 16-interception 2008 season and the roller coaster ride Jefferson's career has followed the past two seasons, you'll forgive LSU fans for hoping Mettenberger wins the job.

More SEC

But what's more important than who emerges from the scrum is how that player -- or players -- performs. If spring practice shows that the Tigers have three quality options available at quarterback -- and given all three's combination of experience and talent, and the fresh start offered by the arrival of Steve Kragthorpe as offensive coordinator, that's a distinct possibility -- then the team will be poised to potentially make good on what may be preseason SEC title projections. Jefferson, Mettenberger, or Lee, what's critical for LSU is that someone comes out of spring practice having cemented himself as an above-average SEC quarterback.

Of course, the possibility also exists that all three will show themselves to be lacking. Jefferson also had an outstanding Cotton Bowl but over the course of his two seasons has been entirely less than reliable; Lee has been Jefferson's backup for those two seasons; and for all his salivating potential, Mettenberger has yet to take a snap at the SEC level. If that's the case, well, we've seen already these past three seasons what happens when LSU has everything but a quarterback.

And it's a lot closer to bust than championship.



 
 
 
 
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