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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Miles handling dual QBs better than Saban

BATON ROUGE - Two quarterbacks can be better than one if you do it right.

Lou Holtz, back when he was functioning better on television, once said the best way to play two quarterbacks is to have one as the clear starter and the other as the clear backup and keep it that way unless things start going significantly south or one quarterback completley outshines the other. That way there is no confusion among the players, the fans, the media and the fans who double as media - all of which can split a team or make you lose games. That way it is not a weekly and sometimes daily competition among the two players, which would fuel the fans and media. The roles are clearly defined.

It's one of the best things Holtz has said in recent years.

LSU coach Les Miles is doing this exactly this way and exactly right. Fifth-year senior Matt Flynn - barring injury - is his starting quarterback, period. Miles has said that several times over the last few weeks as third-year sophomore backup quarterback Ryan Perrilloux has blossomed.

Flynn had a poor outing in LSU's 28-16 victory over South Carolina Saturday. Yes, he was coming off an ankly injury that is still bothering him somewhat. It was a wet field, and Jared Mitchell dropped multiple passes right in his hands. But it was still a bad outing. He finished 8 of 19 for 70 yards with an interception that was his fault. But after the game, Miles has referred matter of factly to Miles as his starter. This was smart.

After Perrilloux started in place of Flynn against Middle Tennessee the week before and completed 20 of 25 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns and rushed eight times for 37 yards in a 44-0 victory, Miles said it was great to be able to get his "backup quarterback" some valuable experience. Perrilloux turned in the best first-time start of any LSU quarterback probably in history, and Miles called him his backup. This was smart. Miles is handling this situation much like coach Mike Archer handled Tommy Hodson and Mickey Guidry in 1987 and 1988, which was the best two-quarterback LSU system until now.

Miles could have played games with the media and future opponents by trying to make everyone guess who might start the next week. "We'll see how it goes this week in practice," he could've said, and opened a Pandora's box of conjecture, including among his own players. This would not be smart. This is how former coach Nick Saban mistakenly handled it in 2004.

Now Saban's two quarterbacks - JaMarcus Russell as a redshirt freshman and inconsistent senior Marcus Randall - were not as talented a pair at the time as Matt Perrilloux is now. But Saban still should have made up his mind after Randall won the Florida game and started Randall the rest of the way with Russell coming in as the backup. Instead Saban went back and forth and often no one, including the quarterbacks themselves, knew their role for specific games until sometimes the Friday before the game or game day. A better system could have won the Auburn game that year, and if Russell had played more in the Capital One Bowl, LSU would have won that game.

Now, back to 2007.

Flynn deserves to be the starter and to play most of the time. He also is a leader of the team and has been building his teammates' and coaches' confidence for five years. He's slowed a little at the moment because of the ankle and the rust from missing a game, but he'll be back and will play much better on the dry turf of the Superdome this Saturday against Tulane and the next week against Florida. If not, you've got Perrilloux as a backup plan.

Perrilloux has played great. He is a better pure passer than Flynn and is more fluid running and throwing, but he is not ready to be the starter yet. He has only been building his teammates' and coaches' confidence for about five weeks, but he very much deserves to play every game and will only get better. This bodes well for the future as Perrilloux looks like LSU's starter for 2008 and 2009 if he can keep his act together.

So LSU has the best of both worlds, which is unique in the dual-quarterback world. All the opponents know Flynn will most likely start, but they also know both quarterbacks will play. Both quarterbacks when healthy can run and throw. No opponent can say, "Oh here comes that quarterback, get ready for a run."

Better get ready for a little bit of everything out of these two guys. Look at Perrilloux. He threw 25 times against Middle Tennessee. He threw once against South Carolina. What's a defensive coordinator to think?

This was the plan of Miles and new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton since the end of last season. Crowton said so. This two-QB system didn't just start with Flynn's injury as some reporters have mistakenly thought. It was always the plan. It just had to be put on the back burner as Miles and his team waited for Perrilloux to get over his behavioral problems and get focused. Now, it's working big time.

I'm just waiting for Flynn to line up at quarterback with Perrilloux in the backfield. Maybe at Alabama.


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