BATON ROUGE, La. -- Les Miles has been down this two-quarterback road before.
It’s not always ideal, but if run correctly, it can cause headaches for defenses and bring jubilation to an offense.
In 2007, Miles used it to near-perfection at times and won a national championship. Matt Flynn was the prototypical drop-back quarterback and grabbed the majority of the snaps, playing in 12 games, while the more athletic and agile Ryan Perrilloux played the part of the change-of-pace QB. He also played in 12 games.
When Flynn dealt with injuries, Perrilloux filled right in. His most notable play came in the SEC title game against Tennessee, when he replaced the injured Flynn and passed for 243 yards and a touchdown in a 21-14 win that sent the Tigers to the national championship.
So with title hopes on the minds of everyone in Baton Rouge, Miles finds himself running another successful two-quarterback system.
Entering the Alabama game, starter Jarrett Lee's passing efficiency is an SEC-high 157.4 and he has 13 touchdowns to just one interception. Lee has also thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game this year, making him the first LSU quarterback to throw at least one in the first eight games since 1998 (Herb Tyler did it in the first 10).
Yes, the same Jarrett Lee who had a knack for throwing more touchdowns to the defense early in his career.
Jordan Jefferson has been used mostly in running situations, getting 111 yards and two touchdowns, but he has also passed for 123 yards and two more scores. Jefferson’s stats aren’t flashy, but his presence forces defensive adjustments across the board.
Together, the two have been extremely efficient, but don’t ask Miles if he takes the credit.
“I don’t know that it’s my management skill in any way,” Miles said. “I think it has to do with guys that recognize that they are part of a whole and that their contribution is significant. Whoever is on the field roots for who’s taking the snaps and whoever is off the field is involved as that guy that’s taking the snaps.”
It would have been so easy for this strategy to backfire. Entering the season, Jefferson was the man until his involvement in a fight at on off-campus bar got him suspended for the first four games.
Lee took over and helped put the Tigers on top of college football. Bringing Jefferson back could have destroyed all that mojo the Tigers had after defeating three ranked teams in their first four games, but it actually made them better.
LSU has averaged 39.8 points and 394.3 yards in its past four games. Players feel it has brought them closer and think the offense is that much more potent with two under center rather than one.
“It’s key when you have two quarterbacks that can step in and lead your offense down the field,” wide receiver Rueben Randle said. “Coach Miles does an excellent job of switching his quarterbacks throughout the game.
“Whoever is back there, we’re going to make plays on them.”
It’s also beneficial to have a healthy body waiting. Miles needed Perrilloux when Flynn went down in 2007, and while he hasn’t had to deal with injuries at the quarterback position this time, Miles knows that nothing is guaranteed in this sport and especially not in this league.
(Just look at the significant offensive injuries we’ve seen in the SEC this season.)
“I can tell you that you need two quarterbacks,” Miles said. “The idea that you go through a season without sustaining an injury at some point and time to one guy, you’re going to in return need for the second quarterback to lead your team, function the offense and be capable. We’re fortunate to have two very quality quarterbacks that way.”
And the players around those quarterbacks obviously don’t mind seeing either. This team has been through too much and has been bombarded by too many distractions, to let a quarterback shuffle bother them.
Players are ready to ride both to another championship run.
“It gives us a whole new dynamic back there having two guys that could probably start anywhere in the country,” offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert said.
“The more the merrier to me. They can both play, and we as an offense support both guys and believe in both fully.”