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Jordan Jefferson Then and Now

Jordan Jefferson is a guy I really wish would have had the opportunity to redshirt last year and be a backup QB this year, learning from the comfort and safety of the clip board.  He is still so very young and came to LSU as a relatively inexperienced project.  He had missed the bulk of his junior year of high school due to injury and had not been part of the standard full-time-quarterbacking-school carousel that quarterbacks like Mitch Mustain, Tim Tebow, Ryan Mallett and others have come from.  Unfortunately for us, circumstances dictated he had to play last year, and circumstances thrust him into the full time starting quarterback position this year, a job for which I hope we can all agree he has proven not to be quite ready yet.

But for better or worse he is our guy right now.  We can talk about Jarrett Lee getting another shot if Jefferson continues to struggle, but Les Miles' public pronouncements have been to the effect that if Jefferson stays healthy he will keep the job.  We could have a good, healthy debate over whether that is a good policy.  Some of us would come down on the side of sticking with one guy to avoid the sort of musical quarterback situation that can wreck a season.  I tend to follow my mantra of pragmatism:  "If things are working, try something.  If that doesn't work, try something else."

Anyway, before the season, LSU fans and outside observers were hopeful that Jordan Jefferson would emerge as one of the better quarterbacks in the conference.  That has not happened at this point, though I suppose it still could.  Currently though, his ATVSQBPI of 5.7 puts him 9th in the league, and firmly in the category of "not really helping his team". 

(Incidentally, defenses are taking over again, and quarterback numbers are coming down.  Ryan Mallett leads the conference with an ATVSQBPI of 8.7, and the median is about 6.2.  If Jefferson improves his numbers just a little, he could easily reach "average" and turn things around for himself.)

One of the problems we are seeing is that Jefferson is completing a very high percentage of his passes.  "What?" you ask?  How is it a problem that he is completing so many passes?  Well, he is completing passes, but not getting yards.  When you're completing 63% of your passes, but only averaging 7.0 yards per attempt, either you are having a lot of plays designed to get yards-after-catch and you're not getting them, or you're taking too many safe throws that aren't getting yards. 

In Jefferson's case I think it's a combination of the two. Earlier in the season, I was constantly amazed at how many completed passes ended up going for zero yards or even negative yardage.  Part of the problem was that he sometimes gave receivers the ball in positions where they could not effectively run with it.  Another part of the problem was that these sorts of plays were called too frequently when defenses were looking for them.  He also has an artificially inflated completion percentage because he does not throw the ball away to avoid sacks enough.  It shows in his rushing statistics, where he has the 3rd highest number of rushes in the conference, but is averaging less than 2 yards per rush, despite being a "mobile quarterback". He has taken 18 sacks already this season, which is only partially the fault of the offensive line.

People point to his game against Georgia Tech last year and wonder, "Why isn't Jefferson playing like that now?"  Here's a surprising thing though.  His ATVSQBPI that day was 5.3.  What's that?  Well, it was a tale of 2 halfs for Jefferson.  He was outstanding in the first half, then tapered off in the second, a trend that has continued this year.  He also completed a high percentage of passes, over 60%, with a low yards per attempt.  He took 2 sacks, and rushed 8 other times, averaging 2.5 yards per rush.

In other words, Jefferson is playing pretty much exactly like he played against Georgia Tech.  People just tend to forget the flaws he showed against Georgia Tech because no one remembers the second half of that game.  He's still showing them, and perhaps we were not being realistic as fans to expect otherwise.  After all, Jordan Jefferson entered this season with 2 starts to his credit, only 73 pass attempts, and one Sprint Practice.  He's certainly not a finished product yet.  He will be a better quarterback in year than he is now.  I just hope he starts making that big leap in development starting this week.