|ESPN.com: NCF Preview 11||[Print without images]|
Jordan Jefferson is confident again. He feels good about the LSU offense again. He is excited about his new quarterback coach and convinced that his senior season will be the season that his junior year was not -- a season in which he will gain notice for the plays he makes, not the mistakes.
|Jordan Jefferson spent the offseason focusing on his physical and mental development.|
"I think we'll look a lot different from what we did last year," Jefferson said.
He is well aware that this is his last opportunity to play at the level necessary for the Tigers to win the SEC West. In the three seasons since LSU won the 2007 BCS championship, the Tigers have gone 14-10 in conference games and haven't finished closer than two games out of first place.
Jefferson has started 27 games in that time. As a sophomore, he threw for 2,166 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Those are numbers that showed promise. Last season, Jefferson failed to keep the promise. He started all 13 games but shared time with Jarrett Lee. Jefferson threw for only 1,411 yards and had three fewer touchdowns (7) than interceptions (10).
"I definitely learned a lot from last year," Jefferson said, "so now, this year, I have a different approach going into this season."
He has gained confidence from working with Steve Kragthorpe, the offensive guru that head coach Les Miles brought in this season. Kragthorpe, who relinquished duties as offensive coordinator this summer after a stunning diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, will remain as quarterback coach.
In a period of months, Kragthorpe has refined Jefferson's footwork and his mental work, too. Gone is the quarterback who pouted when he didn't like the play call. That assessment came from Jefferson himself.
"Take advantage of every play," Jefferson said. "Give it all you can on every play. Even if it's a play you don't like, you still have to play the play. My main focus is playing consistent. I didn't show all my abilities. I can have great games against the best teams. I just have to play like that every game."
Jefferson's lack of consistency made him a target of the wrath of some LSU fans, who are not known for their patience.
"It hurt somewhat," he said. "Our fans are very emotional. They just want us to do good throughout the year."
Miles said Jefferson has the maturity to handle the scrutiny that comes with the job of LSU starting quarterback.
"You know what, I don't know really if I've ever been to a message board," Miles said in his SEC media days news conference last month. "I've certainly instructed my team to avoid the Internet. Those people that sign their name 'Slick Willie' don't necessarily have legitimate opinions.
|Les Miles has confidence in his quarterback's decision-making skills.|
"The things that we do, and the criticism that he sustains, happens within our team room," Miles continued. "And as long as he can make the people in that room happy, that's really all. I mean, I just think that there's a piece to him that's very confident and understanding. That's just the way it is."
The comments aimed at Jefferson didn't go beyond the Internet or talk radio. As far as direct, full-frontal trash talk goes, "I never had a situation where someone came up to me," Jefferson said. Hey, he's 6-foot-5, 224 pounds. Those fans may have been disgruntled but they're not stupid.
In fact, Jefferson said, on balance the Tigers fans have been just fine.
"The majority of people are behind me 100 percent," Jefferson said. "I always get some inspirational messages from Facebook from my fans, just telling me, 'Keep your head up.' Especially last year. I didn't have the year that I expected. I had a lot of people that were behind me and still had faith in me. I'm just grateful for that."
Jefferson said he felt more comfortable in the second half of the season, when former offensive coordinator Gary Crowton called more passes on first and second down. In the last five games of the season, which included defeats of Alabama and, in the Cotton Bowl, Texas A&M, Jefferson completed 27 of 36 passes on first down alone for 487 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
That's a pass efficiency rating of 206.97. Over the entire season, Jefferson had a rating of 114.7.
"That's when our offense was in a rhythm and we were at the most effective," Jefferson said of the last five games. "We weren't being so predictable. It felt a lot better."
Jefferson carried over that confidence from the end of the season into the winter. Though it may seem as if Jefferson has been at LSU as long as Drew Brees has been with the Saints, Jefferson doesn't turn 21 until next week.
LSU is ranked No. 4 and sees the possibility of winning a BCS championship in the Superdome as the Tigers did in 2003 and 2007. Jefferson knows how he will define success in his senior season. With a new position coach and newfound maturity, there's a reason for optimism in the Bayou.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com and hosts the ESPNU College Football podcast. Send your questions and comments to him at Ivan.Maisel@ESPN.com.