Whoever was surprised that Jordan Jefferson played against Kentucky on Saturday shouldn’t have been.
Whoever is concerned that Jefferson getting some snaps is going to disrupt LSU’s offense shouldn’t be.
In fact, Jefferson’s sudden return to the LSU lineup was a no-brainer.
When Jefferson was reinstated Wednesday night, coach Les Miles made it clear he planned to use the guy who was scheduled to be his starting quarterback until he was arrested and subsequently suspended eight days before the season opener.
Once he became available, why wouldn’t you play that guy, a senior who is 20-7 as a starter?
And if you’re going to play him, why wouldn’t you get him into a game as soon as comfortably possible, especially when you’re playing a team you should be able to handle easily, especially when you have a much more formidable opponent looming seven days later?
And when this quarterback gives you a running dimension that your starter (Jarrett Lee) doesn’t, why wouldn’t you seize on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 as the optimum spot in which to insert him into the game?
Those who were inclined to boo Jefferson whenever he made his season debut got it out of their system when he replaced Lee at the end of the Tigers’ second possession of the game. Moments later, LSU was celebrating a touchdown, Jefferson’s touchdown, as the first score in what turned into a 35-7 cakewalk.
Miles put Jefferson in the game to take advantage of the primary advantage he has over Lee. Then, Lee resumed his role as the leader of the offense until the game was in hand. When Jefferson returned late in the third quarter, there were few, if any, boos. His return was hardly even noticed, though Lee was cheered when he replaced Jefferson on third-and-long.
All the questions — Should Jefferson play? Will Jefferson play? When will Jefferson play? — were swept away right at the outset of a romp before the top-ranked Tigers move on to the heart of their Southeastern Conference schedule.
Clearly, Miles thinks this team is capable of winning a national championship — and rightfully so. Clearly, LSU is a better team with Jefferson than it is without him.
Circumstances dictated that Lee become the starter Aug. 26, and Lee’s play has at least matched the most optimistic preseason expectations for Jefferson. Lee has earned the right to keep the starter’s job, and Miles has made it clear he will.
For those who fear Jefferson’s return will have a negative effect on Lee are underestimating Lee. If Lee’s psyche was fragile enough to be adversely affected by this latest development, he never would have gotten this far.
The six interceptions he threw that were returned for touchdowns during a rocky redshirt freshman season in 2008 and the resulting crowd reaction that makes Jefferson’s greeting Saturday seem like a standing ovation would have sent Lee fleeing to another school. But he stuck it out, endured two seasons as a backup, and when he was unexpectedly returned to the starting lineup, he emerged as a mature leader.
In a remarkable five weeks, Lee has gone from backup to starter, from caretaker to playmaker. Jefferson’s return merely gives Miles, offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa and quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe the opportunity to use the whole playbook.
These Tigers can win with Lee at quarterback, perhaps even win a national championship with him. But as soon as Saturday’s game against Florida, or later at Alabama on Nov. 5, or perhaps in a potential SEC Championship Game or a potential BCS title game, the Tigers might need Jefferson’s skills supplementing Lee’s to get the job done.
Jefferson is back, and thanks to Miles’ eagerness to play him, he is that much closer to being back in form.
I would praise Miles for his shrewdness in handling Jefferson the way he did Saturday, if it wasn’t such a no-brainer.