Saturday, August 23, 2008


There's a lot of nail-biting going on among LSU fans and media regarding the Tigers' quarterback situation. Ryan Perrilloux finally placed the last straw on the camel's back, and I personally think most of the consternation is about what might have been with Perrilloux at the helm - not what is to be without him.

I have no stomach for what might have been. Doesn't matter. Perrilloux will probably have a great year at Jax State, and probably generate a bunch of media stories. In some of those stories, Les Miles will probably be second guessed for dismissing Perrilloux. Whatever. He was more patient than I would've been. But, regardless, it's a useless exercise.

So I'd rather focus on what is to be. Since neither of the most probable starters have significant playing time under their belts, it's tough to predict. But perhaps a couple of analogues could at least provide some insight.

Before I begin, though, a disclaimer. I'M NOT PREDICTING ANYTHING. I'm not making direct comparisons between these quarterbacks or teams. I'm just offering what I think are interesting analogues - that is to say parrallel but not identical situations.

SAM BRADFORD, Oklahoma Sooners

In 2007, Oklahoma Sooners' head coach Bob Stoops had a QB situation similar to LSU's this year. His Big 12-winning senior QB was gone, and he was left to choose between junior backup Joey Halzle and RS freshman Sam Bradford. Bradford won the job after fall camp and went on to have a great year. But was that an expectation going into the season? No. Absolutely not. Bradford looked good in camp, but I can't find anything that said he crushed Halzle for the job, nor did he look like he was about to have a record breaking season. He simply looked solid.

Bradford was not a highly-sought recruit out of high school. In fact, Rivals rated him as a 3 Star while Scout barely gave him a 4 Star rating. As near I can tell, he had offers from Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Iowa State. Basically, he was a regional recruit. This is the same recruiting class as Mitch Mustain and Matthew Stafford. Bradford was Rivals' #12 pro-style QB.

So how good was Bradford's year? He broke the freshman QB record for touchdowns. He completed 69.5% of his passes for 3121 yards, 36 TDs and only 8 interceptions. Um. That's sorta good. Now. Some of that has to do with the offense surrounding Bradford. And Oklahoma's schedule wasn't the toughest in the nation last year - Sagarin had them ranked 44th in his end-of-year strength of schedule rankings. But, the bottom line is that Bradford had a friggin' great year as a redshirt freshman.

JIMMY CLAUSEN, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame had a meltdown season last year. Prior to winning their last two games of the season, the Irish were 1-9 behind highly touted freshman QB Jimmy Clausen.

If there was a freshman QB anywhere in the country who was expected to make a decent showing, it was probably Jimmy Clausen, who was the trophy of the 2006/7 recruiting class - if he did say so himself. He was the #1 QB on Rivals and a five star in the same recruiting class as LSU's Jarrett Lee (who was the #7 pro-style recruit). In Clausen's defense, he was a true freshman captaining one of the highest profile teams in college football against the 24th toughest schedule in the nation last year.

Clausen had a rough go. He completed only 56% of his passes for 7 TDs and 6 interceptions. Sure, Clausen probably made a bunch of mistakes that helped lead to such a poor showing. But, Notre Dame's entire offense sucked. Period. The Irish rushed for a mere 75 yards per game, which was almost last in the nation. And their passing game was practically last in the nation as well.

There are alibis, I guess. I've heard that Notre Dame lost an insane number of lettermen in 2006. So that sucks. But 3-9 with the worst offense in the history of Notre Dame football is not what Jimmy imagined as he announced his committment to the Irish in front of the College Football Hall of Fame...

Why Such Different Seasons?

So why did a Rivals 3 Star set records while the 5 Star jewel of the 2006/7 recruiting class fell flat on his face? Well, there is some low hanging fruit. First of all, Oklahoma was a much, much better team than Notre Dame. Secondly, Bradford had a full redshirt year under his belt. Clausen was a true freshman. And, third - there's Clausen's hair. That can't help...

But I think there's one factor that is possibly the most significant of all. Quarterback protection. The Sooner O-line only gave up 14 sacks all season long. That's one sack per game and tied for fifth best in the nation (LSU gave up 30 sacks last year.) So Bradford had ample time to find receivers, build confidence, avoid bad decisions, etc. And good pass protection opens up the running game, which in turn opens up the passing lanes. Synergy.

Clausen on the other hand was sacked 58 times. No, that's not a mistake. He hit the turf almost 5 times per game. That's last in the country. So Clausen, in contrast, had no time to read, make good decisions, and develop confidence. Instead, he spent a lot of time trying to avoid career-ending hits from some of the very best linebackers and defensive linemen in the country.

It's certainly not a definitive conclusion. But I think it's very telling that Bradford had an awesome year behind an offensive line that protected him very, very well. And Clausen had a horrible year behind an offensive line that didn't protect him at all. They were two inexperienced QBs whose success pivoted largely on the team, not their own individual skill sets and pedigrees.

Hatch, Lee and Jefferson

So there is hope for LSU this season . Most pundits think that LSU's O-line will be the best in the SEC, if not the country. If they can protect redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee or junior Andrew Hatch or even true freshman Jordan Jefferson, then any of these QBs should be able to develop some confidence and perform well. I'm hopeful one or more of LSU's QBs will have a year with results closer to Bradford's than Clausen's. And that would be somewhere around Matt Flynn's performance. And LSU won it all behind that kind of year. So I'm pretty friggin' OK with that.

In my opinion, it all rests on the shoulders of the O-Line. And this year - that's a good thing.

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