Even with two of the SEC's better running backs (Charles Scott, Keiland Williams) and two of the league's premier receivers (Brandon LaFell, Terrence Toliver), the 2009 LSU Tigers finished dead last among the 12 league teams in total offense.
One reason for the ineptitude was the inconsistent play of sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson. He completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 2,166 yards and 17 touchdowns last fall but tended to struggle at crucial points in key games.
Speaking at the recent SEC Media Days, however, head coach Les Miles expressed confidence that Jefferson is on track to be a top-notch QB.
"I think what's happened there is he's starting to realize that it's more than a position ... that it's not just call the play and throw the ball," the coach said. "It's a responsibility to function the offense and to give us an opportunity at victory, and to see the defense, and to understand the call, and understand the check, and give a wider, more encompassing view of the position. I think he understands that better now."
Maybe. But that knowledge wasn't apparent in the spring game. Jefferson completed just 8 of 23 passes for 94 yards that day and finds himself fighting off a challenge from Jarrett Lee, who was 10 of 20 for 114 yards.
"Young guys develop at different rates," Miles said. "I think he (Jefferson) had a better summer than he had a spring. I think that he was better this spring and this summer than he was at any time last fall."
Unless Jefferson shows that improvement on the field this season, however, he may spend 2010 on the bench watching his 2009 backup run the team.
"I also think that Jarrett Lee has had a great summer," Miiles said. "He's still competing. He's still a viable quarterback. You put him in the game, he'll have an opportunity to win the game for you."
Jefferson got a lot of blame for LSU's offensive woes in 2009 but the head man caught some heat, as well. Miles' clock-management skills continue to be widely criticized.
"That did not go beyond my scrutiny," the coach said. "I scrutinized the coaching - me and others. I can promise you that some of those situations I'd never run into in coaching. Some of those situations I was prepared for (but) had not envisioned the time constraints.
"So what we've done is we've added that (clock management) to our game-week preparation. Maybe we're a little more prepared, a little bit more ready to play in those situations."
The Tigers had better be more prepared for every situation because Miles is on thin ice, despite winning a BCS national title in 2007. His past two teams - though loaded with talent - have gone 8-5 (3-5 SEC) and 9-4 (5-3 SEC). His contract has not been rolled over the past two seasons, which suggests LSU's administration is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding his long-term future in Baton Rouge.
Miles isn't inclined to discuss his job security, however.
"My view, very honestly, has been a view of how to coach and prepare my team for victory," he said. "I'm very fortunate to have a good contract. I don't think that's the issue. I think the issue is preparing my football team."