LSU Should Revisit Prep Quarterback Evaluation Process

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Tigers Need To Get Capable Quarterback On Board

By John Ventola

After taking a couple of days to digest Ohio State’s demolition of Oregon’s Sitting Ducks in the College Football Playoff (CFP) title game, local attention should refocus on how LSU coach Les Miles addresses his squad’s lack of a top rated quarterback.

Two things were made perfectly clear during the Buckeyes dominating CFP victories over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and Oregon in the championship tilt, and LSU’s Music Bowl loss to Notre Dame. Ohio State has more than its share of top quarterback talent in Columbus, and there is a glaring lack of an SEC caliber signal-caller on the Baton Rouge campus.

Ohio State boss Urban Meyer seems to have a knack of attracting outstanding quarterback talent to whatever program he heads. Meyer mentored current Kansas City

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Urban Meyer Can Recruit And Handle QBs

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith at Utah, and parlayed the efforts of talented Chris Leak and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow to two national titles at Florida. Now Meyer has picked up his third national championship trophy because he had three—I repeat—three quarterbacks prepared to compete at college football’s highest level.

Braxton Miller, who was chosen as the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year in 2012 and 2013, was all set to lead the Buckeyes back to top form. His senior season was put on hold when he suffered a pre-season arm injury. In stepped J.T. Barrett, who led OSU to an 11-1 record before he broke his ankle in the Michigan season finale. After Barrett’s injury, seldom-used Cardale Jones was called on to finish the Wolverine game, and start the Big Ten championship game versus Wisconsin. The 250-pound QB showed poise and talent as he subsequently directed Ohio State over the Badgers (59-0), Alabama (50-42), and Oregon (42-20). Jones combined with Buckeye runner Ezekiel Elliott to power the team to a fifty points per game average in the three-game national title run. Not bad for a third string quarterback!

Even before the CFP title game, there was conjecture that Miller would seek to transfer to another school for his last year of eligibility. Miller, who red-shirted this season because of the injury, has already graduated, and therefore will be immediately eligible to play at whatever school he decides to transfer to for his fourth year of football

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Miller Could Transfer To Avoid QB Controversy

eligibility. His case will be the same as Russell Wilson, who played three years at North Carolina State before transferring to Wisconsin for his senior season. The current Seattle Seahawks star used the extra season to sharpen his skills and prepare for the NFL. Miller, no doubt, realizing there will be a quarterback quag-Meyer (pun definitely intended) come spring practice in Columbus, would welcome the same scenario.

Besides Wilson looking for a new home, there was also speculation that Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson, who suffered through a terrible turnover-ridden season, could be looking for a new team to lead. Golson, who has also graduated, quarterbacked the Irish to a perfect regular season in 2012 before Notre Dame lost the 2013 BCS title game to Alabama. Golson was suspended for the 2013 season by Notre Dame because of poor academic judgment, and had a tough second half of the season in 2014.

LSU could immediately improve its offense with the addition of either Miller or Golson. Starter Anthony Jennings struggled throughout his sophomore season and although

LSU

Jennings Not The Answer At Quarterback

freshman backup Brandon Harris enjoyed a brief glimpse of success in a mop-up role against Mississippi State, he faltered miserably in a subsequent start against Auburn. After that appearance, Harris carried once and threw an incompletion against Kentucky, asnd ran once when Jennings was shaken up against Alabama.

Whether his confidence was shaken, or he could not retain the expanding playbook, the actual reason for his nonparticipation surely was not the success Jennings was enjoying. Miles, in his usual quirky, double-talk style, never addressed an actual reason for what amounted to a total benching of Harris. The lack of information, or a plausible explanation, was particularly mind-boggling when it was evident that the 8-5 season the Tigers suffered through was mainly because of inadequate production at the quarterback position. Jennings passed for over 200 yards in a game only once all year, the season opener against Wisconsin. He threw only eleven touchdown passes and had seven interceptions while completing forty-eight per cent of his passes. Stats that would not scare many defensive coordinators, or strike fear in any college defensive back.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron put a positive spin on the question at quarterback by saying after the Music Bowl loss that everything would be improved by competition, and more repetition. Seems LSU fans kept hearing something similar during Jordan Jefferson’s (before Cameron arrived) four years of mediocrity, This season Ohio State’s Barrett and Jones showed that immediate results are possible if the talent is there. You either have it or you don’t! And in Jones’ case, he was not competing against Sam Houston State, ULM, or New Mexico State, whose tricky defense sent Jennings to the bench after two first half interceptions in a 63-7 Tiger blowout.

Problem is Miles has not been able to get a quality high school quarterback to campus in his ten year tenure at LSU. He inherited JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn from Nick

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Miles Has Been Unable To Recruit Top QB

Saban, and got Zach Mettenberger as a transfer from Georgia. He and his staff have repeatedly misjudged QB recruits, making bad evaluations on whether or not youngsters had the necessary skill-set to compete in the SEC. Sure, the ten-win seasons happened, but only because of an abundance of talent at other positions. Just think how frustrated Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry would have been this season if they had decided to return for their senior seasons and run route after route while Jennings failed to get them the ball.

LSU announced Kevin Steele as its new defensive coordinator and Ed Orgeron as its new defensive line coach yesterday. My question, who is evaluating quarterback talent and where are they looking? The ten-year record shows they are looking in the wrong places, and apparently for the wrong reasons.

Ohio State can find them. Trios at a time. Baylor can find them. Also in multiples (Robert Griffin, Bryce Petty). Texas A & M can get them also, Johnny Manziel, Kyle Allen, Kenny Hill. Even TCU, yes, the Horned Frogs from Fort Worth, have had two quality signal-callers in their system recently. Current Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton, and Trevone Boykin, who now runs TCU’s fast paced offense.

While Mettenberger was a solid passer and has made the pro ranks with the Tennessee Titans, one can only imagine how strong LSU would have been with its usually strong defensive presence and a quarterback with the abilities of any of those mentioned above. Miles would have been the guy coaching for multiple national titles instead of Saban and Meyer.

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