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ATVS Week 3 Roundtable: Quarterbacks, New Toys and Mississippi State

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Billy:
Alright gentlemen. Jordan Jefferson just had his worst game since his spot-duty against Troy in 2008. Eight completions in 20 attempts, 96 yards and a pathetic 70.32 rating. So what is the next move for the LSU offense? 

Poseur:
It's complicated. On the one hand, I don't want a quarterback controversy and Jarrett Lee really has done nothing to inspire confidence other than throw one good pass with the team up 27-3. On the other hand, that was a simply miserable performance. Those are the kind of games that get you benched.

So, if I'm Miles, Jefferson gets the first series against Mississippi State, and if there is no immediate improvement, I put in Lee for a series or two and see how he looks. I don't want to go straight to "Lee is the starter" but I also don't want to commit to Lee playing in the first half on Saturday. If Jefferson comes out firing, Lee stays on the bench. The plan should be for Lee to get some snaps, but the plan can change if Jefferson shows this was just one truly horrific game.  

PodKatt:
We'll find out later today if he's going to be ambiguous about it (the dreaded "or" on the depth chart), but I think JJ is still the starter. I'm not sure we would pull him after just 1bad series, but it will be quickly. If that happens I swear i will not get nervous about Lee throwing a pick 6. I pinky swear it. 

And if that doesn't work? Shepard? Peterson? T.C.? Run the wing-t and just snap to the backs? I'm glad I'll be drunk for some of this game if it turns south....

Paul:
If I'm Les Miles, here's how I approach it. I bring in JJ sit him down. "Look the production is simply unacceptable. You don't have the LSU starting QB job by default. There is now an open competition at QB. If Lee outperforms you in practice, he will start. End of story. Good luck."

Then I bring in Lee and tell him, "Look you have a real shot at taking your job back this Saturday. I told Jordan that if you outperform him in practice, the job is yours. So push him. Take his job. I'd love to see that."

JJ's lackadaisical effort from last week strikes me as a guy who knew we could beat Vandy regardless and doesn't feel like he needs to earn his keep. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I simply cannot understand how a guy who hasn't played that bad since his true freshman year would suddenly just go into the dumps, particularly coming off a solid week vs. UNC. He needs to know the seat under his ass is hot. He better do something about it.

Billy:
Jefferson's game is giving some of the Humanoids ammunition to pretend that he's always played that way, which is definitely not true. That being said, there are bad games, there's what Jefferson supplied on Saturday. When things are that bad, there has to be recourse. He'll probably get another start on Saturday, but there has to be a plan if we see more of what happened against Vandy. If Jefferson can't get the team moving, Lee has to get at least a shot.

But as far as an out-and-out benching, it's a tough situation. You don't want to create an environment where either quarterback becomes too afraid to make any mistake. We've already seen Jefferson play that way in 2009. But you can't have the opposite extreme either, which is what we saw last week.

But any change has to start with the offensive approach, first and foremost. It's called the I-formation Coach Crowton. LSU's had a lot of success with it in the past, and that needs to continue. Get boring. Plays like iso, gut, power-O, counter may not be all that fun to watch, and the Humanoids will complain that Miles "wants to play Big 10 football," but here's the thing: it will work. Manage the passing game. Roll-outs, a screen or two, maybe a deep throw if the defense is totally selling out. If you have to run the option, there are two experienced option quarterbacks on this team and neither one is named Jordan Jefferson (Russell Shepard and Spencer Ware).

So what is your prescription for the Tigers on Saturday?

Paul:
I'm going to make a comparison that will likely exasperate everyone. But after watching football all day yesterday, take a look at what Houston did to Indy. That is a zone blocking run scheme. That is vintage Mike Shanahan, now continued through Gary Kubiak. This is what we saw LSU do in the 2nd half. I've seen a lot of people say "We only ran the ball on Vandy because they wore down." Well that's half true. Our scheme changed 2nd half. We ran very few zone plays in the first half. 2nd half, particularly the 4th quarter, we did it almost exclusively. We have something here.

So please, just stick with it. Ridley is tailor-made for that scheme. He's not a dancer (Shep), and he's not exactly a straight-ahead bulldozer (Charles Scott). He's make one cut and get up the field. He's flashed superb vision through two games. He runs hard. He runs smart. As far as I'm concerned, he can be the focal point of our offense, with the other backs spelling him some. Possibly incorporate Shep in some of those zone running plays. In this way, you minimize the need for your QB to be a playmaker. We've tried, with little success, to be a 50/50 offense (I'm not talking carries to throws here; I'm talking using one aspect of the offense to set up another). No more. Run the shit out of the ball. Lull that defense to sleep and then hit them with some throws. That's how you build a QBs confidence. That's how you make his life easy. That's how you win football games.

Poseur:
I would say the prescription is "win," but we know that's not true. LSU won 9 games last year and finished in the top 20 in every poll and 3rd in the SEC, and we were still "sick." LSU won its first two games this year, and that didn't quiet a single voice. If anything, the voices got louder.  Winning is often said to cure everything. Well, not in Baton Rouge. Winning hasn't cured squat.

Paul is right from a football standpoint. This team looks like its defense might be crazy good.  Why take any chances offensively that you don't have to? Find a running game that works, rotate in our five different backs, and have the quarterback throw the occasional deep ball to Randle. Add in 10 plays or so designed to get Shep the ball, whether on bubble screens, short slants, end rounds, anything but the option, and that's pretty much the offense. Nothing cute, just let the talent win out. And then wait for the defense to save us.

But, really, the "problem" I think stems more from the fans than the program. There has just been a cloud of negativity surrounding a team that has been pretty consistently one of the top 20 teams in the nation over the past two seasons. It's one thing to demand perfection, it's quite another to lose all perspective when it inevitably doesn't happen. I think most of LSU's negative press in the last two years has less to do with anything on the field and more to do with third parties parroting the LSU fan base's storyline. We don't need ESPN to hate us, we already hate ourselves. The team needs to keep winning. We fans need to stop whining so damn much. Go to the game and cheer. AND DON'T LEAVE EARLY. Yes, the traffic sucks. Deal. 

Here's my proposal. The next time you are talking to your fellow LSU fan and he mentions Nick Saban when talking about the current LSU team, kick him in the nuts. As hard as you can.  Repeat, if necessary. If enough people did this, maybe people would at least stop publicly pining over the coach from seven years ago who only had one 10-win season in his entire tenure. It's whining over a former girlfriend who has gone off and done well for herself since she left you. It's sad, petty, and pathetic. Stop it. Saban is a great coach. He's also a great coach who is never, ever, ever, EVER coming back to coach the Tigers. Move on and start cheering for the current team.   

Paul:
Just to echo Poseur, even Herm Edwards, who I consider to be a middling to horrible coach, could point out that we were over complicating things. Consequently, we go to a simple run format and dominate. To quote Thoreau, "Simplify, simplify!" Too many formations... too many "looks." Look, I love all our toys as much as the next guy, but it's obvious we don't know how to play with them. We're little girls with GI-Joes right now. When we need to just be focusing on blowing shit up.

Poseur:
Lines like that make me happy. 

We talk a lot here about New Toy Syndrome, how fans gush over the latest five star recruit as if he has actually produced something. But it applies to our coaches as well. Don't try and draw the Mona Lisa on your Etch a Sketch. Yeah, you can do it, it's just really, really hard. Draw a house like the rest of us. The house works. 

Billy:
But playtime's over. Right now the fan base seems to be teetering on the same ravine of negativity they fell into in November 2008. I'm not sure if there's anything Jordan Jefferson can do to regain people's confidence, and there's a portion of the Humanoids that seem to be enjoying his struggles so that Jarrett Lee can get in the game. I'm with Poseur about the fans, and the lack of mental toughness is kind of embarrassing. Basically the standard reaction to any adversity the Tigers face is to call for a coach's job and declare the rest of the season lost. And then people wondered why a team throws in the towel, like the 08 seniors did once the Western division title was out of reach that November. People can say "the opinions of fans shouldn't matter to athletes" all they want, but I've seen a negative atmosphere ruin team chemistry at every level, from little league to the pros.

You would hope people would have learned from the last time LSU made a decision about its football program based on what Alabama was doing. But hey, it's not like 20 years of sucking through most of the 80s and 90s should teach anybody anything, should it?

As for a fix, I can tell you this much - a change at quarterback, by itself - ain't it. Whether it's Jefferson or Lee, the quarterback in this offense has to be managed. It needs to get boring. You have five talented tailbacks and one of SEC's most explosive runners in Russell Shepard. Give them the ball as much as you can, and fit in the passing game around that. It plays to the strengths of your offensive line, which has more power and strength than it does athleticism at moment, and will keep an extremely athletic defense rested -- which will also help later in the year against opponents with the size to wear them down.

If Jefferson can't execute that type of gameplan, then give Lee his chance. But if he has to come in on Saturday, don't expect him to be the magic bean that will grow this offense into the stratosphere. This offense will get better by minimizing the quarterback, regardless of who he is.

PodKatt:
I will not be tricked into making a cowbell joke, no sir.

Power I, Apply directly at the line. Just run at 'em till they break. If we are going to have a year where the QB play remains questionable, then we'd better make sure now that we can win - no, dominate - without one. Once we have the lead, go pass crazy. Use every spare opportunity to get JJ some quality, confidence boosting reps. This ain't PeeWee, don't be afraid to run up the score and make Auburn look foolish for having trouble with these dogs. And don't run the weakside option. I swear I'm going to throw my hat at something the first time I see it.

As for the D, they've shown they know what to do already. Stay aggressive but don't get foolish. We'll need healthy and rested legs to chase Devine all over the backfield next week. Though maybe we could take a little more chances in coverage and try for some INTs. Miss St. has shown their receivers have enough problems already just trying to catch the ball.