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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs consider LSU QB Jefferson worth another look

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 05:30 AM
TAMPA -

As that vivid, white supermoon rose into the night sky early Saturday evening, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reached out and grabbed a falling star.

There is no better way to describe Jordan Jefferson.

The former LSU quarterback's career has tumbled like a piece of space junk falling back to earth ever since college football's regular season ended in December.

Long considered on the fringe as an NFL talent, Jefferson confirmed scouts doubts with an atrocious performance in the BCS title game loss to Alabama and ranking 315th out of the 315 players rated by NFL.com at the league's scouting combine in February.

The Bucs, though, see some brilliance in Jefferson, a 6-foot-5 233-pound former Tigers team captain whose plusses include an NFL-caliber arm. That's why they've tucked him in their pocket, hoping he'll come in handy should troubles start multiplying at quarterback.

"There is a lot of upside there,'' first-year Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "So we're going to work with him and take it from there.''

Jefferson could hardly ask for much more. After all, his near-meteoric descent began even before his senior season, when he was arrested in August and charged with felony second-degree battery for his role in a fight that took place in the parking lot of a bar near the LSU campus.

A grand jury reduced the charges against Jefferson to misdemeanor battery, but he was suspended four games and didn't return to the starting lineup until the 10th week of the season.

Jefferson threw for 684 yards and six touchdowns prior to the BCS title game, but looked out of place against Alabama, completing 11 of 17 throws for 53 yards and an interception. He not only undrafted, but unsigned as a college free agent.

It wasn't until the Bucs invited him to Tampa for a tryout at their rookie minicamp last weekend that Jefferson got a shot to prove he can play in the NFL. He made the most of the opportunity, impressing enough to warrant a contract and extended look through the summer.

"I approached this opportunity like it was my (chance) to get in front of the coaches and show them the style and upside that I have, and that's what I did,'' Jefferson said. "I just gave it 110-percent at all times.''

No one should be surprised by that. Though Jefferson has mechanical flaws in his delivery and lacks pocket presence, he possesses great passion for the game and a willingness to learn and improve.

"There's a lot you have to learn to become a good quarterback, but I'm willing to put in the work and the time to get myself in that position,'' Jefferson said. "There's different terminology, a different style of player. You've got to be under center more here and you've got 14-year veterans that have been studying the game for a long time and you're just coming out of college.

"So, there's a lot you have to learn before you get to the level where you're successful like a Peyton Manning or an Eli or Dan Marino, you have to do a lot before you can get to that stage.''

Jefferson has already learned how to win. He was 24-8 as a starter at LSU, with seven of the eight losses by fewer than seven points. He's also learned how to take advantage of his skills.

The Louisiana state 5A offensive player of the year in 2008, he left LSU as the Tigers' all-time rushing leader among quarterbacks, having gained 1,018 yards on 359 carries with 12 touchdowns.

Even some of Jefferson's passing stats are impressive. He completed at least 61-percent of his passes as a sophomore and a senior, finishing with 4,733 passing yards and a 7.0 yards-per-pass average.

"Winning is definitely my strong (suit), and I'm a very athletic quarterback,'' Jefferson said. "But I'm not where I want to be. I have a lot of work to do as far as fundamentals and technique and going through my progressions.''

The opportunity to work behind starter Josh Freeman and veteran backup Dan Orlovsky, Jefferson said, will give him the best opportunity to improve those areas of his game. That's one reason he's glad Tampa gave him a look.

"I feel like I can learn a lot from them,'' Jefferson said. "They didn't recruit me but my interest was in being with a group of quarterbacks that could help me develop and become the best quarterback that I can be.''


rcummings@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7979

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