What does Les Miles think he's doing here, leading a vaudevillian comedy troupe or something?
This week's Blogger Q&A comes to you from SBNation's LSU Blog, And The Valley Shook. I didn't get any questions from them, but you should still check their blog out. They have some good content for the week.
1. First, the question everyone wants answered: Jordan Jefferson or Jarrett Lee? Talk a little bit about each of their abilities and which you'd prefer to start.
ATVS: Well, regardless of what anyone prefers, barring injury, Jordan Jefferson will continue to be the listed starter at QB. Some schools use a two-QB system out of luxury. We use it out of necessity. Our offense is a ball-control, grind 'em out type.
What Jefferson offers is running ability, particularly in midline veer, zone read, and even some traditional option, as well as the ability to break from the pocket and pick up yards. However, his passing skills are rudimentary at best. He's unlikely to hit deep or mid-range throws. His big throwing motion and slow release even make the shorter passing game difficult. He doesn't read the field well from the pocket. However, if you get him on a rollout, he's a much, much more efficient and effective thrower.
Lee has the tools to be a great pocket gunslinger type, but still has yet to overcome his glaring technique issues. Any sign of pressure up the middle and he'll typically bail on the pocket and try to Bret Favre a throw with a good, but not great arm. When he sets his feet and delivers, he's often very effective. Unfortunately, he rarely does this. He was most effective against Florida, but his effectiveness has waned since that game.
Many think Lee "brings our passing game to life." It seemed that way from the start, but I'm beginning to believe Lee's effectiveness had a lot to do with opponent's lack of tape on him. He can't throw the deep or mid range stuff either, but he does have a quick release and throws screens and slants well.
2. I specifically remember pooping in my pants when you signed Russell Sheppard, but through two seasons he has roughly 700 yards. What gives? Talk a little bit about how he's used as well as why other players are touching the ball more than he is.
ATVS: The answer is Gary Crowton.
In fact, that's the answer from every LSU fan regarding anything to do with the offense.
Not knowing Shep's stats off hand, I'm surprised he has even 700 total yards. If you had asked me over/under on that, I would have said fewer. Regardless, there's a few reasons for his relative lack of production thus far:
a) Our offense is bad but our passing offense is even worse.
We run the ball pretty well, and we've used him some to that effect... effectively even. But we haven't really used him taking direct snaps this season (not sure why), and only a bit as a pitch man on the option. Our QB play is so subpar that they have a hard time getting it to targets 1 and 2, much less no. 3.
b) He's still struggling with the transition to receiver.
Early season he had quite a few drops. He's overcome that now, but he's not a very good route runner. He's still learning the position.
c) He's not used properly.
He's at his best getting the ball in space and trying to make plays. We do that every so often, but we've also tried to send him on deep routes (he's just not fluent enough to see in a deep ball right now) and other midrange stuff that he's not the best at. He was pretty involved in the Alabama game though, so it will be interesting to see if his role continues to expand.
3. Who is the best defensive player on your team about whom no one is talking? Best unheralded offensive lineman?
ATVS: Ryan Baker, easily. Morris Claiborne is probably up there too (and Brandon Taylor pre-injury), but Baker, in my opinion, is the best LBer on the team. He was a force against Alabama. He's undersized, but fast and hits like a demon. Kelvin Sheppard gets most of the attention, and he's definitely due credit. But I've seen many teams neutralize his effectiveness by simply blocking right at him. He struggles to get off blocks. Baker does well with that and is really beginning to exert himself as a playmaker.
PJ Lonergan is our best OL. They often trust him to handle DTs by himself, and he's done it well, with the exception of against Nick Fairley. He's a big, tough, mean, nasty center. He's athletic enough to get down field and block. He's really solidified the unit in the middle.
4. Much has been made of Les Miles' inability to manage the clock, and I was honestly laughing at the end of the Tennessee game, but you've had a great season so far. What are some of the strong attributes of Miles as a coach that make up for some of his struggles in pressure situations?
ATVS: His players love him. They gave him a game ball after the Alabama game. As a result, their is rarely a dip in effort... they always play hard for Les. His recruiting is top notch. Everyone is well aware of his "Mad Hatter" reputation for being a gambler etc. Les has an Economics degree from Michigan, so I'd say he probably understands the numbers of the gamble pretty well. I think his players enjoy that he trusts them to go out and make plays.
5. What's your prediction on this game? How does it play out, and what's the final score?
ATVS: I give up trying to predict this game. If variables didn't matter, I think LSU wins this one handily. But we all know that won't be the case.
Here's a few things I think factor heavily in this game:
a) Ole Miss needs two wins to get bowl eligible.
b) Houston Nutt has had Miles' number the past three years.
c) Will LSU play to the level of competition?
I think it will wind up being "Just another week in the SEC" as Miles said after the Tennessee game. A close, hard fought battle that LSU wins due to homefield advantage.