OK, OK, so making fun of LSU’s crappy offense is the new making fun of LSU’s clock management, which is the new making fun of Florida’s all-penitentiary team, but the amount of great prospects LSU gets every year, and the lack of offensive firepower the Tigers produce is truly staggering. And this is true for every position.
I mention this because some reporters, like they must do every week down there, grilled Les Miles about why the offense, specifically the passing game, sucks so badly. After all, Jordan Jefferson has been in the program for three years and Jarrett Lee has been there for four. Here was Miles’ response (via EDSBS):
“We’re throwing it. I don’t know. It’s…we’re working at it. And the players and the coaches are taking the time. And we’re throwing. We’re throwing balls. I guess for me, I just expect at some point in time that this thing is going to take off. I just think it’s OK. That’s what we would well have expected.”
And when asked if the quarterbacks have been coached well in their time:
“I don’t know. You know, that’s a tough question. The only thing I can tell you is that they’ve been coached and coached and coached, and drilled. The passing attack has not changed so significantly that it’s not comfortable for all. I, uh, yeah, I think they’ve been coached.”
So yeah, that’s an awesome assessment of his team’s progress. I’m sure the players and fans are glad Les Miles is such a positive guy or that might have looked bad.
Jarrett Lee was a four-star quarterback out of Texas in the class of 2007. After four years of being the program, he is a 50-something percent passer with 17 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
Go look at that 2007 class. There are so many good defensive players, it’s stupid, but Terrance Toliver is the only skill position player worth a damn four years later. Hell, DeAngelo Benton is playing for Auburn! Sure, there are plenty of quality linemen in there, but there’s a reason the passing game sucks, and it isn’t just because of the quarterbacks.
And no, you can’t tell me that Stevan Ridley is a good back. Show me a difference between Ridley and LSU’s last two starting running backs: Charles Scott and Jacob Hester. They all average around five yards a carry and, in the case of Hester and Scott, weren’t even the best backs on their team (see: Williams, Keiland). None of them do anything even remotely spectacular. Ridley starts because, like Hester and Scott before him, he runs straight ahead like Miles likes because apparently it’s still 1973 in Baton Rouge.
Ridley might not be the best on his team either because super prospect from the class of 2009 Michael Ford is averaging seven yards a carry, but he’s stuck at second on the depth chart.
Jordan Jefferson was a four-star quarterback out of Louisiana in the class of 2008. He is now the worst starting quarterback evereverever. He even made LSU reconsider playing Jarrett Lee. And yet, he was still a four-star recruit. So what gives?
Every LSU fan knows about Gary Crowton, the offense-killer. He’s the guy who followed LaVell Edwards at BYU and lasted only four years before being fired after making exactly one bowl. Then he went to Oregon in between the old Jeff Tedford/Joey Harrington offense and the new, awesome Chip Kelly offense (2005-06). Ducks fans will remember those years as the years Oregon’s offense secretly sucked, especially in 2006, his last year before his tenure at LSU began, when he couldn’t figure out how to use Dennis Dixon properly. Chip Kelly sure did.
Actually, the Dennis Dixon/Jordan Jefferson comparison is worth mentioning in more detail. Both are tall, athletic quarterbacks who needed some developing in the passing game but could run like crazy. The criticisms leveled at Dixon were virtually identical to the ones made about Jefferson. The difference is that Dixon got Chip Kelly to adapt the offense to him. Jefferson just continues to suck and not develop.
And then there’s Russell Shepard, a five-star quarterback in the class of ’09 from Texas. He’s now a receiver because of the glut of awesomeness LSU has at quarterback.
Shepard showed up at LSU as a wicked-fast quarterback who would be perfect for a Michigan/Nebraska/Auburn-style running quarterback offense. He needed to develop as a passer, but is still the best runner on the team. Think of him as a carbon copy of Denard Robinson. About the same size too.
Instead, the coaching staff moved him to receiver, probably because Miles knew there was no way Crowton could ever develop him into a competent passer. I thought I was a Keiland Williams obsessive, but his abilities are nothing compared to what Shepard was supposed to bring to LSU.
One might think this isn’t all about Crowton. That Les Miles and others have something to do with the offensive awfulness at LSU. After all, LSU did win the BCS national championship in Crowton’s first year as offensive coordinator.
True, but this is what Crowton does at every job he’s at. To wit: in Crowton’s first year as BYU head coach, the Cougars went 12-2. The next three years, they didn’t even crack .500, and Crowton was gone.
In Crowton’s first year at Oregon the following season, the Ducks went 10-1 and finished 10th in the country. The following year, they were 7-6.
And yes, in Crowton’s first year as Les Miles’ OC (2007), the Tigers won the BCS championship. Once again, he won with his predecessors’ players. This time it was Jimbo Fisher, who is now the head coach at Florida State. The next year, the Tigers went 8-5. In 2009, the Tigers went 9-4 and were absolutely awful on offense again.
Gary Crowton doesn’t take snaps or throw passes, but that’s a motherf–ker of a track record right there. In each case, he won with seniors (Brandon Doman, Kellen Clemens, Matt Flynn) and then didn’t develop anyone to follow up.
It’s always possible that Miles has been tinkering with Crowton’s system since it’s too spread-y and there’s only one tight end on the field way too often for Les Miles’ taste. I don’t want to blame the awfulness on just one person here.
It’s just that recruits are starting to figure this out. Four-star quarterback Zach Lee took the money from the Los Angeles Dodgers rather than play quarterback at LSU.
You’d have to be nuts to turn down money like that, but the point is the same: receivers will get looks from the NFL no matter what, but they sure as hell aren’t getting the ball at LSU (there are three guys tied for the team lead with 25 receptions after eight games, barely over three per game per player).
The quarterbacks aren’t going to get any better than they were in high school and have to endure the schizophrenic offense that runs out of a two-tight end ‘I’ formation one play and then is in a four-wide spread formation trying to throw the ball on the next down, only the defense isn’t exactly befuddled because LSU only runs about five plays out of each package anyway.
And, of course, the running backs. Any recruit going there should prepare himself to either sit behind one starter and never get carries, or, should they be the starter, to get run into the pile again and again and again. They’ll finally leave college so beat up that they can’t impress on their pro-day at all and have to play fullback like Hester or spend their rookie years on three different practice squads like Charles Scott. For the record, Keiland Williams is actually on the Washington Redskins’ roster, backing up Ryan Torain.
It’s not pretty at LSU, and if history shows us anything, it won’t be until major changes are made.
The craziest thing is that the Tigers are still 7-1 and No. 12 in the country. Maybe I’m nitpicking…
Nah. They’re awful.