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BCS National Championship Film Study -- Would LSU Quarterback Jarrett Lee Have Made a Difference? (Part II)

Beckham Jr. and the offense failed to make explosive plays.
Photo via Washington Post
To read Part I of the "Would LSU Quarterback Jarrett Lee Have Made a Difference?" film study, click here


LSU missed a golden opportunity to score a touchdown on either of their first two offensive plays of the first half. Or, in a more joking manner, a golden opportunity to get past the 50 yard line. 

Now before I begin, I believe the toughest position to evaluate is quarterback. I think quarterbacks can only be evaluated by former quarterbacks and professional talent evaluators. Outside of football camp and sandlot pickup, I have never played the position. But because this Jefferson and Lee controversy is so rampant here in Baton Rouge, I decided to give it my best shot. But I am a better evaluator of the front seven and the running game.  

Much was made after the game by the horrendous play calling by coach Greg Studwara, Les Miles and the LSU coaching staff. But these next few film sessions might help open your eyes to show that the execution wasn't the best either.

LSU was effective on Nov. 5 with two plays against Alabama. The first was the option, which Alabama crushed to perfection in the first half in the championship game. But the other was with straight vertical passing routes, which LSU didn't do enough of in this game (as "The Cajun Cannon" pointed out).

After watching the tape, it seems as if the LSU coaching staff was saving the vertical passing plays to come with in the third quarter, which makes sense. They figured Alabama would come out compared for it, so they probably wanted to lull them to sleep and then hit them with deep ones coming out in the third quarter. If history means anything, Alabama avoided near collapse in their last National Championship game versus Texas when the Longhorns began their comeback in the third quarter.  

Play #1
Jordan Jefferson pass incomplete to Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a well designed play by the LSU coaching staff and a great call by Studwara on LSU's first offensive play of the half. LSU never took any shots down field, but on this play they did with a beautiful play action fake. Let's hit the tape.

LSU lines up with two tight ends to the right of the formation, with LSU's Chase Clement (CC) lined up in a two-point stance a yard off the line of scrimmage. He motions briefly and comes back to his original starting position. 

Alabama is in their base 3-4 personnel but is showing a (somewhat) 5-2 look on defense with outside linebackers creeping up to the line of scrimmage with #5 Jerrell Harris on the near side and Courtney Upshaw on the far side.  

The ball is eventually thrown to Odell Beckham Jr. (OBJ), who is lined up at the bottom of the field versus Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. We see Alabama in their typical two safety look on the back end of the coverage.

As the ball is snapped, you see that I have highlighted two players for LSU. Clement (CC) was highlighted in the last slide as the tight end. I have now highlighted LSU right guard Josh Williford (JW). The reason why I did that is because both players are "pulling" to the left on the play, which usually signifies a run to the left. You see the linebackers for Alabama key on those guys and begin their flow to the left of the formation as well.

The running play LSU is play-actioning out of his a "counter-trap." A "trap" play is when the quarterback looks as if he is handing the ball off to the player as if the play is going one way but at the last second hands it off and the play goes the other way. As you see here, Jefferson acts as if he is handing the ball for Spencer to go right but instead the play is going left. Usually on traps, a lineman on one side "pulls" to the other, which is what (JH) is doing in the above picture. (Here is a video of Merril Hoge showing a perfect trap ran by the  Chiefs.)

A "trap" is a complex running play that is usually not associated with play-action fakes from the quarterback. What really sells the fake for LSU is that they also are pulling a tight end, which in this case is (CC). But what sucks for LSU is that the Alabama front fundamentally plays this pretty well. Let's hit the next slides.

As you can see in the above slides, I have highlighted two players. Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams (JW) and outside linebacker Harris (JH). They both play this play to near perfection. 

In the first slide, you see Williams "jacking up" LSU offensive lineman Alex Hurst, who played his worst game in a Tigers uniform. His arms are fully extended and Hurst is defenseless technically and athletically to Williams. Williams is able to slip Hurst block with ease and begin pursuit of Jefferson.

 In the first slide, you see Harris (JH) fooled by the fake at first. Because he was the outside linebacker in the set (in a 3-4), he has contain responsibilities. What he does well here is at first losing contain by beginning to go inside on the man blocking him, which is LSU tight end Mitch Joseph. But as you can see in the next slide, he fights back to the outside shoulder of Joseph and keeps "contain" on the play.

This action by Harris is meaningless on this play because of the great penetration from Williams (JW), but this small point out shows how fundamentally sound the Crimson Tide are on defense. If Williams (JW) doesn't have penetration, Harris keeping contain is crucial on the play. But nevertheless, the penetration from Williams plays a key role in this offensive set. Let's hit the next slide.

We see Beckham Jr. (OBJ) get a clean release off the line of scrimmage by physical cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick doesn't look like he is running with (OBJ), so this shows he is playing underneath zone coverage, which Alabama did a lot of in the first half. (OBJ) is a burner and Crimson Tide cornerback DeQuan Menzie stressed the importance to me on BCS Media Day of being physical with the LSU receivers. On this play, the call was for Crimson Tide corners to not "jam" any receiver and play zone coverage underneath with safety help over the top. With no jam on the play, LSU has more of an opportunity to complete a clean route down field. 

As we see on this slide, (ODB) continued with his "fly" pattern, which is just a basic vertical route. Jefferson makes the right throw under pressure to Beckham. The ball wasn't well thrown, but Alabama safety Robert Lester takes a horrendous angle. Beckham is able to get his hand on it but is not able to bring it down. In my opinion, he has to make this play for his struggling quarterback. Let's look at it from another angle. 

As we can see here, (OBJ) takes an awkward angle on a ball that was poorly thrown. But I believe (OBJ) needs to make this play. In real times video speed, you will see what I'm talking about. He must undercut the safety on the football. If he catches this, he probably runs in for a touchdown. Instead it's 2nd & 10.

Would Jarrett Lee Have Made a Difference?

Yes and no. It was clear Beckham, Jr.'s production went down when Lee lost his starting position. When Lee has well designed plays drawn up for him and it's a simple read, two receiver option play, he is an efficient quarterback. Rueben Randle was also open underneath on a drag route, which either Jefferson or Lee could have completed, but I believe (OBJ) was the right option on this play. His chemistry with Beckham was phenomenal, so I would lean toward Lee being more accurate with this throw.

Now the problem is Lee's mobility on the roll out action out of this set. Lee can't run, but I believe he could have rolled out nicely and completed this throw, even if this would have been his first play in the game.

I'm just going to warn LSU fans now. The next play I will break down will be a dagger to your heart and the definition of mediocre quarterback play. But it will have to wait for next time, in the next film session.

Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.


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