Camp start: Aug. 4
Opener: Sept. 3 against Oregon in Dallas (8 p.m. on ABC)
Fun fact: Only three coaches in SEC history have won 11 or more games in a season four times -- Alabama's Bear Bryant, Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer and LSU's Les Miles.
College football's bottom line is about wins and losses, although LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson has been the occasional exception to that adage.
Jefferson has endured benchings and rotations throughout his first three years in Baton Rouge, and the Tigers were 107th nationally in passing offense last season. Yet the 6-foot-5, 224-pounder from the New Orleans suburb of St. Rose guided LSU to an 11-2 record that was capped by a 41-24 throttling of Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
If Jefferson can lead the Tigers to 11 wins again this year, he would tie Tommy Hodson [1986-89] as the winningest quarterback in program history.
"Everything is about wins," Jefferson said. "It's not always about stats. After this season, I could go down in the record books."
Jefferson insists he's had a great career and has come through in a lot of big-game situations, and his focus for his final go-around is to be more consistent. His dual-threat potential can not be discarded, as reflected by last season's 254-yard passing performance against Ole Miss and his 100-yard rushing game against Tennessee.
He accounted for four touchdowns -- three passing and one rushing -- in the Cotton Bowl rout but went seven straight weeks during the regular season without a touchdown pass until ending the streak in the 24-21 upset of Alabama. Jefferson finished last season with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions, which was the worst ratio among starting quarterbacks in the SEC.
"His journey has not been easy, but Jordan is our leader," senior offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert said. "He's led us to a lot of great wins. I have full faith in him and expect him to get a lot more rounds of applause."
Jefferson was asked multiple times at SEC media days about the notion that LSU was just a quarterback away from contending for the national championship. He has not been a popular figure on LSU fan sites, especially after the seven games a year ago in which he failed to throw for 100 yards.
Though he had an 83-yard touchdown run in the 16-14 escape against Tennessee, Jefferson completed just 3 of 10 passes for 30 yards against the Volunteers and was intercepted twice.
"I don't know really if I've ever been to a message board," coach Les Miles said. "I've certainly instructed my team to avoid the Internet. Those people that sign their name 'Slick Willie' don't necessarily have legitimate opinions."
Miles believes the hiring of Steve Kragthorpe as offensive coordinator has benefited Jefferson greatly. Jefferson was challenged this spring by fellow senior Jarrett Lee and former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who is a redshirt sophomore, but Miles said Jefferson continues to be the guy who gives his Tigers the best chance to win.
Jefferson said "Coach Kragthorpe is behind me 100 percent," and he expressed disappointment in last year's offense without mentioning former offensive coordinator Gary Crowton by name.
"I was put in a lot of third-and-9 and third-and-12 situations where I had to make a play, but we started throwing more on first and second down after the Auburn game," he said. "If you watch the Alabama game, we were throwing the ball on first and second down, and we started putting points on the board. We're much more successful when we dominate on first and second down.
"There were times when I threw the ball eight times a game. That's a situation I've never been a part of, and I've been playing football for 13 years."
Indeed, Jefferson's three biggest passing performances a year ago were the final three games of the season.
"The things he can do have been enough," Miles said. "He's been a very productive quarterback for us."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...