Jordan Jefferson had his chances.
Locked in a two-quarterback system for the past year with Jarrett Lee, the senior finally solidified himself as the guy for LSU this past spring. It was exactly for what anyone bleeding gold and purple — or anyone frustrated by perennial underachievement — could have hoped.
All news was good news for Jefferson. It was like he was in a dark room searching for the light switch, and suddenly, he found it. And what Jefferson saw in that room were opportunities: an opportunity to lead the Tigers to another SEC, and potentially, BCS championship; an opportunity to be the hero, the big man on a SEC campus.
Practically the only thing missing were the cheerleaders swooning over Jefferson underneath one of the campus’ historic live oak trees.
“I think he wants to lead this team,” Les Miles said following the Tigers’ spring game. “He wants to take the team at a time when he can provide leadership and make them better. He’s more knowledgeable, certainly more capable.
“I think winning is the key piece and I think that’s what Jordan Jefferson is — a winner.”
And then Jefferson screwed up.
It doesn’t matter in what capacity he was involved in a bar brawl late last week. It doesn’t matter who threw the first punch. Unless it’s proven Jefferson was trying to break up the fight, what matters is that he failed to conduct himself in the way a senior leader should.
Now, Jefferson has been suspended indefinitely, and the leadership role must fall on Lee, a fellow senior.
His stats don’t induce excitement, but what Miles and the Tigers need right now a week before opening up their season against a top-five opponent in Oregon is a level head, not a high quarterback rating. LSU has endured too much too close to the beginning of this season not to have someone who knows a thing or two about difficult situations.
No matter what anybody says, off-the-field distractions can and do affect a team. The opportunity to provide leadership to a group that clearly so desperately needs it is there for Lee. He just has to seize it.
That’s why quarterbacks become quarterbacks, right?
LSU’s predicament brings to mind their season-opening opponent a year ago, North Carolina. The Tar Heels were entering 2010 on a wave of controversy over NCAA investigations of impermissible benefits received and academic misconduct that sidelined over a dozen players.
Leading that team was senior quarterback T.J. Yates, a man who faced plenty of hardships in his own time at Chapel HIll. But, even in a loss, Yates showed guts and determination, nearly executing a last-minute, game-winning drive.
LSU needs that kind of leadership from Lee. They don’t need him to win the game — there’s plenty of talent around him to do that — they just need consistency.
That hasn’t been Lee’s strength in the past, but he’s getting another opportunity in his final season. In fact, the Tigers might actually be better off with someone under center who wants to make the most of it.
After all, the guy before him certainly didn’t.