Let's not mince words: the offense sucks. The offense sucked on the west coast, it has sucked in the rain, it has sucked when we're the host, and it has sucked on a train. I do not like it, Poseur senses. I do not like our terrible offense.*
* Deepest apologies to Dr. Seuss. I mean, deep, deep apologies.
We won't even cherry pick stats, choose your preferred measurement. Here are LSU's national ranks in each category (out of 120 teams):
Total Offense: 109
Scoring Offense: 89
Rushing Offense: 88
Passing Offense: 103
Passing Efficiency: 46
Hey, at least the offense passes the ball efficiently. There are almost no positives out of those stats. LSU only has one player who ranks in the top 100 of yardage leaders at his position (Terrance Toliver - 86th). And this isn't an instance of the numbers lying to us, the offense even looks bad. Billy insists this offense lacks an identity. He is wrong. This offense has an identity: one of ineptitude and timidity. This offense is a total and complete disaster.
So, what to do? Can this be fixed?
The message boards are demanding for Gary Crowton's head on a platter. I hate to call for a guy to be fired since these are real people with families and all that, but college co-ordinators are hired to be fired. It's a brutal and often unfair profession, but it is the profession Crowton chose for himself. You cannot helm an offense with as many highly rated recruits as LSU, turn out a product this bad, and expect to keep your job. Crowton's on borrowed time. I'm working off the assumption he is getting canned in the offseason, which still leaves the question: what can be done this year?
Let's take each issue one at a time:
Let's admit that Jordan Jefferson cannot run the option. Please, scrap this from the playbook except when Russell Shepard comes in the game.
However, that's not the real issue. The real issue is that Crowton and Miles are still calling the game as if they are shell shocked from last season. They have done everything in their power to avoid interceptions, which has resulted, predictably, in lots of sacks and an offense that can't move the ball down the field. The LSU offense has completely abandoned the middle of the field, and teams are packing the box daring LSU to throw.
Yes, the offensive line has been bad, but it's even harder to run the ball when you only run in obvious run formations on obvious run downs. Has Crowton even heard of the play action? LSU has about 5000 formations and only 10 plays. There is all of this complexity, but ultimately, it is a painfully predictable offense.
One last note on play calling to every person who speculates over whether Miles is "interfering" with the offense: shut up. OF COURSE Miles is involved in play calling. He's the head coach. That's not interfering, that's doing his job. The head coach doesn't make every play call, but to pretend that our head coach should be off getting an orange slushee when the offense is on the field is just stupid. The head coach is not, nor should he be, an innocent bystander.
Jefferson has not played terribly. He hasn't played great, but he also has not been bad. Most of his problems are also correctable: he doesn't make his man commit on the option, he has no sense of the pocket, he locks on to his primary receiver, and he does not progress through his reads. These are things which can be fixed, but here's the rub: Jefferson has made no progress in any of these areas. It's also a lot easier to fix one problem, Jefferson has to improve several. He needs lots of instruction and improvement.
Which begs the question, what is Jefferson's ceiling? He doesn't have a great arm and he will never be a classic drop back passer. However, his inability to run the option holds him back as a running quarterback. Honestly, his ceiling might be Herb Tyler. I loved Herb Tyler, but that's not a title level quarterback. Even Matt Mauck had some touch, and he was a more explosive runner. I think Mauck's production might be beyond Jefferson's ability.
I dismissed out of hand in the comments the idea of playing Jarrett Lee, but the more I think about it, the more I think Lee needs to get some snaps. That will mean a crowded backfield as that is advocating a three-QB system, which might be a first in modern football. Simply put, Lee has more upside than Jefferson. Jefferson is a solid backup and a guy who will not hurt you when you need him to play, but he is not a guy who can carry the offense. Yes, he's only 19, but what signs has he given us that he will improve. What are his raw tools that make you believe he will become Mauck or Flynn, two title winning QB's who started as little more than a running option?
Lee completely imploded last year. By the end of the season, he was a beaten man, and it seemed he just needed a hug. He expected bad things to happen, and more often than not, they did. Lee, however, still possesses the raw tools to be a good quarterback. It's up to the coaches to harness those tools and turn them into skills. Lee has the higher upside of the two quarterbacks, and it makes sense to play him.
Everyone loves the freshmen because all they have are recruiting videos and the burden of expectations. Shepard is an exciting player, but he is not a panacea to cure all ills. Shepard has demonstrated no ability to throw the ball and the offense is way too predictable with him under center. Shepard also looks like he weighs about 50 pounds soaking wet. I'm not convinced he can take the pounding of too many snaps.
Randle's also going to be a great player, but he is on the field, people. Stop asking for him to play. He just hasn't been Jerry Rice immediately. And for the love of God, stop with the "Les Miles doesn't play freshmen" thing. Miles is playing just about the same number of freshmen as any coach of a major program.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Well, it's been bad, but the unit it improving. A lot of the problems right now stem from the coaches telegraphing the play-call and Jefferson's ridiculous 10 step drops. A lot of those sacks were coverage sacks caused by Jefferson have little concept of how to step up in the pocket.
They have been a favorite whipping boy, but we have been breaking in three new starters and almost all of the backups are underclassmen. The only thing that is going to help this unit is time. We can't expect dramatic improvement, just incremental improvement. They are doing that.
There is talent everywhere, especially at wide receiver. The coaching staff needs to do a better job of utilizing their assets. Instead of coming to the line and reacting to the defense, the offense needs to try and dictate the game and make defenses react to it. A little misidirection wouldn't hurt.
But this offense is like a fool in the shower, grossly overreacting to every problem. Jefferson takes too many open field hits? Great, now he won't take the hit on the option. Threw too many interceptions? Great, now we have an offense that won't throw over the middle of the field. Want to run the fashionable spread but have a power running back? Fine, let's do both and therefore do neither.
Take some risks. Yes, bad things will happen, but so will good things. Also, accentuate what we do well. Jefferson is bad in the pocket? Help him out and run some designed rollouts. He's good on the run. Run some play action to help out the running game. When you run those deep routes, perhaps it would be a good idea to have some underneath routes.
I hate to break this to you, Gary, but you should probably already be updating the resume. Might as well take some risks. What do you have to lose?