BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee can go a long way toward shedding the nickname "pick six" when the No. 12 Tigers invade the Swamp.
On the heels of his late-game heroics against Tennessee last weekend, Lee is expected to see significant action when LSU meets the 14th-ranked Gators in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday night.
No one has ever doubted the strong-armed Texan's ability to throw the ball, and his 47-yard completion down the sideline to Rueben Randle only further confirmed what Lee is capable of when makes the right decision about where to go with the ball.
The problem early in his career was making good decisions.
Thrust into a starting role in his freshman year — in part because Ryan Perrilloux was kicked off the team in the offseason and in part because of Andrew Hatch's injury — Lee threw 16 interceptions, seven of which were returned for touchdowns.
That stat has hung over him for much of the past two years.
"You know, I was a young player in 2008. A lot of things didn't go my way," Lee said this week. "I threw interceptions. They were returned. But I moved forward from that. I put that behind me. I'm a new player, a more mature player and I'm just looking forward to this year and this game this week."
Last weekend, with starter Jordan Jefferson having struggled to get the passing game going for weeks, Lee saw his most extensive action of the season. He threw one interception on a fade pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter, but redeemed himself on LSU's 69-yard, 16-play gamewinning drive.
Lee connected with Terrence Toliver on third-and-13, and again on fourth-and-14, as he marched LSU all the way to the Volunteers' 2-yard line. Jefferson took over from there and LSU (5-0) survived a now famously wacky finish to emerge with a 16-14 win and remain unbeaten.
"Some of the things that Jarrett does, he does as well as anyone," Miles said. "We need to fix a couple things. He needs not to make a couple throws, he needs not to throw a pick."
As fate would have it, just as Lee is coming back into the fold, he is facing the Gators, who lead the nation with 12 interceptions. Florida has returned three of those picks for scores.
Lee played in The Swamp in 2008. He was intercepted twice then, and one was returned 52 yards for a score by Brandon Spikes.
"You've got to put those kind of things behind you," Lee said. "There are a lot of great quarterbacks that have thrown interceptions and you can't worry about that. But also you've also got to keep it in the back of your mind to know that you don't want those kinds of things to happen. You don't want to hurt your team in that way."
"Preparation is key during the week and we know Florida's a great team, an athletic team and we've just got to prepare well."
Take away the interceptions, and Lee's 2008 season wasn't all that bad, considering he was a freshman in what many regard as the best conference — and best defensive conference — in college football.
In 11 games, including eight starts, he threw for 1,873 yards and 14 TDs. His potential was evident, but he had a lot to learn. Lee played in only one game last season in a 24-16 victory over Louisiana Tech. He was an unspectacular 7 of 22 for 105 yards, including a 38-yard TD to Brandon Lafell — but he was not intercepted.
Against Tennessee, a game he did not start and in which he had only about half of the offensive snaps, Lee was 16 of 23 for 185 yards — more yards by himself than LSU had thrown for in any of its previous four games.
"I've been in the system a long time now," Lee said. "I've just become a more mature player as far as reads and reading defenses and things like that. Getting an opportunity last week ... really helped boost my confidence and I just really appreciated the opportunity."