We're starting with our weakness, which is probably not a great idea if my goal is to get everyone pumped.
Yes I know Alabama linebacker Jimmy Johns got arrested yesterday, but I'm not going to go into it because a) enough has been said already, b) I simply can't join the around-the-SEC glee about a kid in trouble, and c) being in the Tuscaloosa legal community, it's entirely possible that me or someone I know well could end up as his lawyer.
So instead we take the high road and instead talk about ourselves, the LSU Fightin' Tigers. After yesterday's introduction, we move on to position breakdowns.
Our quarterback situation is not exactly the envy of the country. And let's face facts, losing Ryan Perrilloux was a huge blow to this team as far as on-the-field production. Whatever may have been going through the kid's mind off the field, on the field he was a holy terror for opposing defenses. He had all the physical tools to be an All-American. In a conference with a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and a big-armed monster at Georgia, Perrilloux's talent was as good as any.
Now, with Perrilloux gone, the quarterback situation is a lot more unsettled, and the options LSU has aren't nearly as exciting. What's more, no one really knows who the starting QB will be, or if we'll have the same starting QB early in the season as we will have late.
From his home town in Nevada, to committing to Gary Crowton at BYU before Crowton was fired, to spending a year at Harvard, to his abbreviated Mormon mission trip, to walking on at LSU, to possibly being our starting quarterback, Andrew Hatch has seen it all. Is there such a thing as a "journeyman" college player? If there is, it's Andrew Hatch.
He's classified as a junior, despite being a little older than is typical of a junior due to his mission trip. He's got great size for a QB at 6'3" and 214#. He knows the Crowton system, having run it in high school. His arm is suspect, but there is some indication he may have had a physical problem with his arm that has been corrected. He's got very good wheels for a quarterback, and would probably make a very nice changeup-type quarterback who could come in and run the option and take a little punishment.
If you believe the reports, Hatch may not have a wealth of talent, but he's steady and smart. Does he have the arm strength and accuracy to take advantage of the deep threats this team has at wide receiver? Who knows? And that's the question. We have some serious speed receivers on this team in Demetrius Byrd and Terrance Tolliver. If we can't get the ball to them down the field, that would be a crying shame.
The next choice is redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee, a part of the 2007 recruiting class. Where Hatch is mobile, Lee is something of a pure pocket passer, and playing him would remove the option from the playbook, though he could obviously be paired with a more mobile QB, much like Matt Flynn was last year.
Lee has decent length for a quarterback at 6'2", and his weight reportedly fluctuates from about 190# to about 215#. If you believe the reports, he's put on a good bit of weight (in muscle), and it has slowed him down, so he reportedly has been asked to drop some weight to get quicker.
Lee can probably be considered to have the more dynamic arm of the two returning quarterbacks, but I think it would be exaggeration to say that he has a "great" arm. I don't think he can heave the ball quite as mightily as, say, Matt Stafford. He has good arm strength and his high school videos show he's pretty accurate. The question about him is his quarterback instincts. More than one person with supposed inside information has expressed that coaches think he has not developed sufficiently to take over the starting reigns. Which is not to say he never will, but they seem to think he's been a little slower than they would have liked in picking up the nuances of the position at the college level.
Clearly one of these two guys is going to be the starter in the season opener, and you shouldn't believe anyone who claims to know which one it will be. There is too much contradictory information out there. Some say it's Hatch by a mile. Some say it's dead even. Some say that the coaches are talking up Hatch just to motivate Lee to improve. I'm going out on a limb to say which one it will be.
But there is one limb I will go out on:
I predict Jordan Jefferson is going to play. He's a true freshman. A member of the 2008 signing class. I haven't profiled him yet because I'm waiting to put the "headliners" at the end.
Jordan Jefferson was not a 5-star recruit. He was a 4-star by both Rivals and Scout. And not a particularly high 4-star either. But this kid has all the tools. He's 6'4" and 210#. He has very good legs and a strong arm. His physical upside is higher than Jarrett Lee's or Andrew Hatch's. He's got a higher physical upside than Matt Flynn did. He's been on-campus a lot to work with the team before officially reporting for the summer, and word is that the coaches have told him to be ready to play in the Fall.
If it is really true that Lee has not developed as well as they'd like, and if Jefferson can pick things up quickly, he has a real chance at playing a lot early, and even being a big part of this team by the end of the season. I am very excited about this kid's abilities, even though he is not a "national" level recruit. He's from Destrehan High School, right up the road.
Of course, I am not hoping that a true freshman wins the job outright. Starting a true freshman quarterback is akin to the death of a football team's conference championship hopes. I do think, however, that this kid can add something to this team this year, and prepare to take over the reigns for good next year.
OK, this hasn't been the most optimistic chapter of this series that you will see. The good news is that no one else in the SEC West really has a well-settled quality quarterback situation. Bama's quarterback has been mired in mediocrity thus far in his career, as has Arkansas's returning quarterback. Mississippi State is starting a QB who had a 52% completion rate last year, throwing for only 5.6 yards per attempt. Kodi Burns was worse at 38% and 5.6 yards per attempt. Ole Miss may have the best QB-situation in the West, and their starter has never thrown a pass in the SEC.
Yes, this position is a weakness for us, but it could well be a weakness for everyone else as well.