STARKVILLE — The Mississippi State football coached divided scouting reports of Southeastern Conference teams in the spring and summer.
Days before the start of the 2011 season, the offensive report for LSU was in the trash can.
Less than a week before LSU was supposed to open the season against University of Oregon at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, LSU suspended quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Josh Johns after they were arrested and booked on felony charges of second-degree battery for their roles in a bar fight, according to Baton Rouge Police.
LSU coach Les Miles indefinitely suspended Jefferson and Johns after their arrests. LSU officials have said Jefferson won”t play at 7 p.m. Thursday (ESPN) when No. 3 LSU (2-0) plays No. 25 MSU (1-1) at Davis Wade Stadium.
“We will continue to cooperate with the authorities in an effort to find out what took place during this incident,” Miles said Aug. 26. “As sad as this incident is, it”s important we learn from this and we take away a valuable lesson. This has weighed on all of us.”
Earlier that month, LSU assistant coach Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson”s disease and relinquished his duties as offensive coordinator, even though he remains on the Tigers” staff.
Kragthorpe, who was hired during the offseason, remains the quarterbacks coach, while offensive line coach Greg Studrawa has been elevated to offensive coordinator and calls plays in games.
The coaching shuffle is just one part of the change. Jarrett Lee has taken over at quarterback for Jefferson, and he gives the Tigers a different style of play and tendencies that the MSU coaches have had to try to prepare for in a short week coming off a 41-34 loss Saturday at Auburn.
“There”s only so much you can do and focus on your fundamentals,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said. “Your scheme time will be crunched.”
While Jefferson would use his legs to create a new pocket or to create a positive gain on the ground, Lee, who is seventh in the league in passing efficiency entering this week, would rather be considered a classic, drop-back passer.
Lee”s consistency and ability not to turn the ball over are helping Tigers fans believe Lee may be just as qualified to take LSU to the national championship game in New Orleans this season. His maturation is significant considering he heard loud boos from the home fans at Tiger Stadium as a member of Miles” two-quarterback system with Jefferson in 2009.
With only a few days of notice that he”d be starting against then-No. 4 Oregon, Lee took every snap and had 98 passing yards and a touchdown in a 40-27 victory.
“If you look back at the beginning of his career … everyone knows you don”t want to be playing too many freshman quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference. That”s not a recipe for success,” Mullen said. “I think now as an older, veteran guy he understands the league, and he”s a great manager of the game and he makes all the throws in the key situations.”
MSU will treat Lee similarly to Auburn quarterback Barrett Trotter after the ball is snapped. Like Trotter, Bulldogs junior cornerback Corey Broomfield said Lee will have a primary target in his mind before he gets under center and they want to force him to go through his progressions.
If MSU, which has only three sacks in two games, can fluster Lee it has the potential to force the Tigers into third-and-long situations. Lee has helped LSU convert 53.6 percent of its third downs this season.
“They like to get it out of his hand quick, so I expect when he does pass it down the field they”re going to try and trick you,” Broomfield said. “They don”t want you to know when he”s going to pass it and they”ll do it during weird down and distances.”
Lee was 9 of 10 for 133 yards and a touchdown in the first half last week in a 49-3 victory against Football Championship Subdivision opponent Northwestern State. Lee suffered a slight ankle injury in the win, but Miles assured the media Monday his plan is to play his senior quarterback the entire game.
“There is not going to be any injury that will stop any of our players from playing, and certainly not Lee,” Miles said.
Since going 4-4 as a starter in 2008 as a redshirt freshman, Lee has
won the past three games he has started, and has four fourth-quarter comebacks in his career. In 2008, Lee was named SEC Freshman of the Week after going 18 of 27 for 261 yards and two touchdowns against MSU.
If he has similar numbers, LSU could be in good position to push its winning streak against MSU to 12.