When the first week of August hit the calendar, the starting quarterback positions for both the top ranked LSU Tigers and #2 Alabama were big question marks. Those question marks got even more muddled in the middle of August when the two teams were preparing for the 2011 college football season.
LSU would find out that starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson would be off the team for an unknown period of time. Meanwhile, over in Tuscaloosa, Coach Nick Saban and his staff used spring practice and fall camps to find their starting QB, which would be going to a player with not much experience. Since that time you would have to say that both starting QB’s for the Tide and Tigers have come a long way.
“A.J. has improved from week to week and he is coming off a nice game against Tennessee,” said the voice of the Crimson Tide Eli Gold. After a good spring and fall camp, A.J. McCarron beat out Phillip Sims for the starting job. The sophomore QB McCarron has completed 134 of 200 for 1664 yards and 10 TDs, with only three interceptions. McCarron threw two picks in the Tide’s season opening win against Kent State, but since then he’s only been intercepted once.
McCarron is coming off a season-high 284 passing yards in the Tide’s 37-6 win over the Tennessee Volunteers. But without question the most impressive stat that AJ has is that he is a perfect 8-0 as the Tide’s starting quarterback.
McCarron has developed a good on-field relationship with his wide receivers including Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks, Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White. But a huge reason why AJ has improved is because he makes the right throws.
If one of his wide receivers is not open, you can tell by looking at game film that McCarron has gotten more comfortable in the pocket by using the short passes to running back Trent Richardson. Richardson has eighteen receptions for 212 yards this season. I’ll fully expect AJ to throw the ball more often than not to Trent during the battle with LSU.
Now down in Baton Rouge, perhaps one of the best feel-good stories in all of college football is about the Tigers senior signal-caller Jarrett Lee. Going into the 2011 college football season the LSU Tigers were highly thought of. But in the blink of an eye the QB position switched hands as senior Jarrett Lee was thrust into the starting role.
Lee has take full advantage of his senior season as the Tigers starter, completing 98 of 155 passing attempts for 1,250 yards and thirteen TD’s. But the two most impressive stats with Jarrett at the helm is that he has thrown only one interception. Jarrett and wide Receivers Reuben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. have made up one of the SEC’s most dangerous trio’s in pass catching. His Tigers are perfect with an 8-0 record and sit atop all major polls.
Each week this season Jarrett Lee has done the right things, said the right things and simply put, he has not been making the same mistakes as when he was the Tigers starting QB back in the fall of 2008.
Jarrett has been more poised passing the football, has great command of the huddle and has made ,nice throws when teams have crowded the box to put pressure on him. Simply put, Lee is playing his best football of his career and he’s doing it at the most important time of the season.
Lee has never been arrogant; he has stood by the side of all of his teammates when things were ugly back in August, and he has earned a greater respect from the players, the coaches and even the fans who once wanted him out of Baton Rouge. Jarrett Lee has a lot of heart.
And neither of these QB’s has been forced to have to throw the football when it has not been on their own terms. The talent that surrounds both of these quarterbacks is far superior to just about every other team in the country.
But like we say in life, it’s not so much how many times you do something but yet more the success you have doing it. Both Jarrett and AJ are enjoying that success, as both right now are the top two QB’s in the SEC in passing efficiency.
So as we break down one of the biggest games ever, we may find out when the final horn sounds that the team with the QB that makes the most plays will most likely win the game. And making plays in a game like this with two very sound defensive units will be crucial…But even more crucial will be ball security, and both of these players have been good at that this season - Real good!