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August 26, 2011

Jarrett Lee: An Unlikely Second Chance

In 2007 Cameron Newton was ranked #58 among ESPN's 150 top high school football players.  Two spots below Newton, Jarrett Lee ranked #60.  In 2007 ranked Lee as the #7 pro-style quarterback prospect in the country.  Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Mallett, and Florida's John Brantley were numbers 1, 2, and 3 on that same list and Robert Marve was ranked #8, one spot below Jarrett Lee.  Jarrett Lee was a consensus 4-star quarterback with a promising future.  Lee may have started at some schools but LSU already had two very promising quarterbacks ahead of him (Senior Matt Flynn and Sophomore Ryan Perrilloux)  so, LSU redshirted Lee, giving him another year to develop.  In fact, it looked that after his redshirt year, Lee would probably have a couple of years backing up Ryan Perrilloux.  Rivals had rated Perrilloux as the #1 dual threat quarterback in 2005 and even though those ratings are often hit and miss, Perrilloux was showing signs that he may live up to the rating.  

Unfortunately, Ryan Perrilloux had recurrent problems off-the-field and was dismissed from the team.  Perrilloux and Jordan Jefferson grew up and played football at high schools probably not 50miles apart.   A few centuries ago pirates could be found not too far from where these guys grew up.  Makes you wonder if swashbuckling isn't somehow latent in the culture or if these guys are channeling pirates.  Face it, there is no "good" reason why guys with a shot at quarterbacking for a national champion would throw away those dreams by making bad decisions off-the-field.  I'm going with the guess that Perrilloux and Jefferson are somehow modern day pirates and therefore are destined to swashbuckle. I know, it's not funny. Sometimes I attempt a little humor when things get way too serious.  And I have digressed.  Back to the Jarrett Lee story.

Because Perrilloux had been summarily dismissed from LSU's football team in 2008 Jarrett Lee  moved to the front of the lineup.  2008 was almost a decent year for Lee at quarterback.  Lee threw for 1873 yards with 13 touchdowns while completing 53.2% of his passes earning a quarterback rating of 115.7.  The were only a couple of pretty big strikes on Lee's record.  Lee threw 16 interceptions and 7 of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns.  Redshirt freshman Lee was clearly not ready for prime time in Death Valley.  When true freshman Jordan Jefferson quarterbacked the Tigers to a 38-3 Chick-fil-a bowl victory over a favored, higher ranked Georgia Tech team many LSU fans were certain that Lee would soon be announcing a transfer because clearly, Lee would never likely start for LSU ever again.  However, Jarrett Lee did something that few expected, something kind of old fashion.  In a day and age marked so clearly by instant gratification and selfishness,  Jarrett Lee stayed committed to LSU football despite his failure, his embarrassment and a largely unforgiving Tiger fan base.

In 2009 Lee played in seven games with only one start against Louisiana Tech. He completed only 16 of the 40 passes he attempted that year for just shy of 200 yards and a dismal 40% completion record.  Things had dropped so low that some LSU fans were actually booing when Lee entered the game.  The best bet was that surely Lee would transfer after 2009 to a place where he could make a fresh start.  But once again, Jarrett Lee did what few others would have done:  he stayed true to LSU and was more determined than ever to improve enough to prove that he deserved to lead the Tigers.  

Early last year (2010) seemed to prove the general consensus that Jarrett Lee had already had his place in the sun and would not ever repeat as LSU's starting quarterback.  Through the first four games of 2010 Lee only attempted 2 passes as a backup. Still, an anemic passing game had many wondering if maybe playing Lee instead of Jefferson might be a good idea.  LSU clearly had a strong deep receiving corp but Jefferson could not seem to consistently get the ball to them.  Many will remember how LSU got unbelievably lucky on a last second call to beat Tennessee but because of the incredible ending few recall that Lee's outstanding passing is the only reason that LSU was in a position to score.  Lee also was the hero of the Florida game.  There is no bigger stage than playing Florida at home but Lee threw for 2 touchdowns(0 interceptions), over 100 yards, with an 81.8% completion rate.  Lee finished that game with two perfect fade passes to the end zone to end the Florida game.  The second pass won the game. The first pass had to be repeated because part of a toe of the LSU receiver was touching out-of-bounds.  As a backup, Lee threw for over 500yards with a nearly 61%(60.7%) completion rate.  Oddly enough, if you take out two lackluster performances against ULM and McNeese State, Lee's completion percentage rises to 65%.  Maybe LSU should consider starting Zach Mettenberger against the cupcakes this year.  Last year Lee's best performances were against Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee.  

Of course Lee has not been a regular starter since his redshirt freshman year in 2008 but he will have a most unpredictable opportunity for a second chance.  There are very few second chances in big time college football.  Jarrett Lee has proven by his actions that he is not one to walk away from a challenge. Jarrett Lee has been preparing for this opportunity for quiet awhile. Senior quarterbacks with lots of game experience tend to judge potential interceptions better than redshirt freshmen and I fully expect that Jarrett Lee will do just fine.  As frustrated as the Tigers must be right now, I would hate to have to line up against them in a few short days.  


andyj said...

Hope you don't mind mind but I quoted you and linked to you on And the Valley Shook. Thank you for the best article I've read in a long time. Cheers Bob!

Anonymous said...

Dang it is nice to begin turning the corner and focusing on the silver lining of Lee at QB. JJ got shafted, but we a lucky Lee hung around.

Anonymous said...

LSU strikes back with Lee...A new day in tiger town.

Anonymous said...

As you said, lee's first year was horrible and i couldn't stand seeing him walk out onto the field, constantly wondering what miles was thinking. Jefferson finally came out and i was relieved, but over the years i started to see lee in a different light, that not only had he improved but in my eyes was a better team leader. Because i dont know if it was just me but it seemed like everytime jefferson looked to the sidelines for the next play he had a lost look on his face. Good qb but questionable leader. I think lee will show everybody what patience and practice will do and hopefully lead us to a national championship victory. Geaux LSU!!!!

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