LSU Tigers: Jarrett Lee

BATON ROUGE, La. -- With Les Miles opening his 10th season as LSU’s head coach today, we’ll use each day this week to review the decade under the eccentric Miles. Today we look back at some of the wacky moments, gutsy decisions and memorable press conferences that helped define Les as the entertaining figure that he is today.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesLes Miles has been known to keep things interesting on the LSU sideline.
 10. The Harlem Shake: LSU wasn’t left out of the “Harlem Shake” video craze that swept the nation last spring. In the Tigers’ version, it first appears as if they are participating in their regular “Big Cat” drill before Miles breaks into an awkward solo dance while the players “argue” behind him. Then the beat drops and mayhem ensues.

9. “It must have been the shoes:” The Legend of Les was already fully developed even before he filmed a 2011 backyard basketball video where he went from hapless to hero while playing against (and dunking on) two of his children. The secret weapon in Miles’ turnaround was a pair of purple-and-gold high tops sent by ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt following an on-air conversation where he made fun of Miles’ all-white game shoes.

8. Les being Les: Unlike many of his buttoned-up counterparts, Miles has never been afraid to show off his oddball side. It’s not particularly unusual to see him answer a reporter’s phone during a press conference, clap like a weirdo or fill everyone in on the difference between Columbus Day and St. Patrick’s Day. Nor is it surprising to see him kiss a pig or rappel off the side of a 24-story building, all in the name of charity. Around Baton Rouge, that’s simply known as Les being Les.

7. Crazy wins vs. Tennessee, Florida: Another example of Les being Les is how his teams have found some wild ways to win (and occasionally lose) ballgames. Two perfect examples came in back-to-back weeks in 2010, when LSU beat Tennessee and Florida to miraculously improve to 6-0.

First, the Tigers were on the verge of a devastating home loss to Tennessee -- and it looked like that’s exactly what happened when the Volunteers thwarted LSU’s last-gasp effort to score at the goal line. However, the referees determined that on the chaotic final play, the Vols actually had 13 defenders on the field instead of the allowed limit of 11. The ensuing penalty gave LSU one final chance to score, and Stevan Ridley plowed into the end zone on that play to give LSU a 16-14 victory.

Miles caught plenty of grief over the next week about LSU’s sloppy final moments in regulation before the Tennessee penalty bailed out the Tigers. It would have been understandable if he became a bit gun shy, but timidity is not in Miles’ DNA. When the Tigers’ final drive stalled late in the Florida game, Miles sent out Josh Jasper to attempt the game-tying field goal -- or so we all thought. Instead, holder Derek Helton flipped the ball over his head to Jasper on a fake field goal, and the kicker’s 5-yard run achieved a first down that kept the drive alive.

The Tigers eventually scored the game-winning touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Jarrett Lee to Terrence Toliver with six seconds to play. It was yet another example of how you never know what to expect when Miles is making decisions on the sideline.

6. Fourth downs vs. Florida: Miles already had an SEC West title on his résumé when his third team at LSU in 2007 became one of the most impressive college football squads of the 2000s. There are plenty of moments from that BCS championship season that helped cement Miles’ risk-taking reputation, but among the most memorable were his decisions to go for it on fourth down against Florida over and over. In all, Miles and the Jacob Hester-led Tigers went for it on fourth down five times. They achieved a first down or a touchdown all five times in knocking off the defending BCS-champion Gators 28-24 in one of the greatest games ever played at Tiger Stadium.

 5. “Give them a big kiss on the mouth:” It’s difficult to say whether Miles is better known for the wacky things he says behind a microphone or for the gutsy -- and sometimes crazy -- calls he makes on the field.

We’ve already discussed a couple of the crazy calls. Now let’s touch on one of the most memorable press conferences. Following a narrow 2012 win over Ole Miss, he launched into a profane rant that evolved into a standup comedy routine. In response to a story that characterized receiver (and former hotshot recruit) Russell Shepard’s college career as a disappointment, Miles vehemently defended the contributions his seniors (including Shepard) had made to the program.

The rant ended with Miles instructing those within earshot, “You go find them, you throw your arms around them, you give them a big kiss on the mouth … if you’re a girl,” before breaking into a wacky grin as the reporters in attendance laughed.

4. Touchdown bomb against Auburn: In yet another perfectly Les moment from the 2007 season, Miles’ Tigers were in position to kick the game-winning field goal while trailing Auburn 24-23 in the final minute.

Tommy Tuberville’s defense might have expected LSU to down the ball in the middle of the field to set up a more manageable kick, but Miles had other ideas -- and the unorthodox call caught Auburn off guard. LSU quarterback Matt Flynn dropped back and hit Demetrius Byrd with a 22-yard touchdown pass with just 1 second showing on the clock. The enormous risk had paid off, and two weeks after the amazing Florida win, the Tigers delivered some more Miles magic.

3. The Mad Hatter: Miles has been given plenty of nicknames through the years -- some more family-friendly than others -- but the one that seems to resonate most is “The Mad Hatter.” ESPN’s Rece Davis apparently gave Miles that one, in part because of the white ball caps that awkwardly sit atop his head each fall Saturday and in part because of Miles’ general craziness that we’ve already covered, even if he once told sideline reporter Holly Rowe, “Understand something, it’s the hat I wear. There’s nothing mad underneath it.”

2. Eating grass: Shortly after LSU scored the go-ahead touchdown in a 2010 win against Alabama – just before the Tigers attempted a two-point pass that would put them up 21-14 – CBS’ TV cameras caught Miles in the middle of an unusual ritual that he said dates back to adolescence. He leaned down, pinched a blade or two of grass and put it in his mouth.

Miles has made hay out of his grass-eating ways since then, even participating in an ESPN commercial that gleefully ridiculed the practice.

1. “Have a great day:” One of the most unorthodox moments from Miles’ first nine seasons at LSU came when he participated in an impromptu press conference BEFORE the 2007 SEC championship game in order to shoot down a report that he was preparing to leave to coach at his alma mater, Michigan.

Miles told those in attendance that, “I’ve got a championship game to play, and I’m excited about the opportunity of my damn strong football team to play in it. … Please ask me [about Michigan] after. I’m busy.”

His smirking line to close, “Have a great day,” was so memorable that LSU added those words to the rear door of the football team’s equipment hauler.

Tide, Tigers contrast in QB stability

November, 5, 2013
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When AJ McCarron steps behind center on Saturday night for Alabama's first offensive snap in its showdown against LSU, he'll be making his fourth start against the Tigers.

The senior has been the picture of stability the last three years as Alabama’s starting quarterback. His first start against LSU was Nov. 5, 2011, dubbed "The Game of the Century," one that LSU won 9-6 in overtime at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, McCarron's counterpart on Saturday night, will make his second start against the Tide. LSU hasn't quite enjoyed the same stability that Alabama has, though Mettenberger has provided a steady hand and productive play this season, making LSU's offense the talk of the program for once; hard to do in a program known for its defense.

[+] EnlargeLSU/Georgia
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsZach Mettenberger was 28-of-35 for 298 yards and a score in his first start against Alabama.
But in the same time span that McCarron has served as Alabama's lone starter in the Tide-Tigers showdowns, LSU has had three different starting quarterbacks. Mettenberger started last season's game but when the teams met twice in 2011 – in November and in January for the BCS championship – the Tigers had a different starter each time.

That's simply a microcosm of these two power programs. Both are championship-caliber teams that are annually in the BCS national championship discussion. Both have stable coaching staffs and a foundation built on great defense and the ability to run the football. Both recruit at a high level and, of course, play in the same division, the SEC West.

But since the Nick Saban took over at Alabama in 2007, the Tide have had just three quarterbacks start against LSU: McCarron, Greg McElroy (2009-10) and John Parker Wilson, who predated Saban and started for the Tide from 2006-08.

In that same time span, the Tigers have had a different starter vs. Alabama six times. In 2007 it was Matt Flynn, who was a senior. Jarrett Lee started the 2008 game, while Jordan Jefferson started in 2009 and 2010. In 2011 Lee started the November "Game of the Century," and Jefferson started the BCS national championship later that season. Though the Tigers have had four different quarterbacks in that span, it's been rare that the same one has started twice in a row against the Tide like Mettenberger will do Saturday.

Despite that contrast, the series has been back-and-forth. Alabama has won four times since 2007, LSU three. The Tigers' success despite quarterback turnover is even more fascinating in an age where quarterbacks dominate the headlines and up-tempo spread offenses are en vogue.

Take last season as an example, one in which the Tigers didn't make a change at quarterback but didn't get strong play from the position either. Florida (3rd), Oregon State (13th) and Kent State (25th) were the only schools other than LSU with a Total QBR of less than 55 for the season to finish in the top 25 of the BCS standings at the end of the regular season. The team with the worst QBR of thos, LSU (38), finished eighth in the final BCS standings last season.

Even in 2011, when the Tigers went 13-1 and went to the BCS title game before falling to Alabama, the quarterback situation was far from stable. Lee made nine starts that season, Jefferson made five. There was even discussion in the aftermath of the 21-0 title game loss to the Crimson Tide about LSU coach Les Miles' decision to not play Lee at all that night and leave Jefferson in, which Miles later said was because he wanted a mobile quarterback who could avoid Alabama's tenacious pass rush in the game.

The reason the Tigers were able to succeed despite a sometimes uncertain quarterback situation is their defense. LSU finished in the top 12 nationally in total defense each season from 2010-2012 and had a 34-5 record in that time span. They've also had a reliable running game to turn to move the chains offensively.

Alabama has enjoyed the fruits of both of those traits during their run of three BCS titles in four seasons, but the stability at quarterback is evident. The Tide have finished the season with a better QBR than LSU each of the last five seasons.

Stable or not, life is tough for the quarterbacks in this game. During the Saban era, Alabama quarterbacks have a QBR of 42.8 against LSU, while LSU's is 33.1 against the Tide. The touchdown-to-interception ratios aren't pretty (8-to-6 for Alabama, 7-to-11 for LSU) as the defenses take center stage in this matchup.

But the Tigers have shown that even in this era of offensive dominance, good defense can still get you far. And now, they just might have the quarterback to knock off the nation’s top team.

The stars of the Alabama-LSU rivalry 

July, 17, 2013
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There have been dozens of All-Americans and first-round picks to come out Alabama and LSU in recent years, talented guys like Courtney Upshaw, Barkevious Mingo, Trent Richardson and Tyrann Mathieu. All told, there have been more than 30 NFL draft picks from both programs since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007.

But with so many players to choose from, how do you determine the best athletes to compete in the rivalry, the ones who have shown up and played their best when the two schools met on the football field each year?

TideNation writer Alex Scarborough and GeauxTigerNation writer Gary Laney did their best to answer that difficult question.

Ranking best games in Bama-LSU rivalry 

July, 17, 2013
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The Alabama-LSU rivalry began heating up the minute Nick Saban left the Miami Dolphins in an attempt to resurrect a sleeping giant in Tuscaloosa, and it hasn't slowed down since. Alabama has flourished into a dynasty with three rings and counting, while LSU continues to battle for national championships year in and year out under the sometimes-eccentric leadership of Les Miles.

Head to head, the Crimson Tide and Tigers have had some of the most thrilling games in recent memory, often propelling one team or another on to the SEC championship and beyond. Each matchup has had its defining play or its defining performance, whether it was T.J. Yeldon's last-second touchdown in 2012 or Eric Reid's acrobatic interception the year before.

Breaking down each game was no easy matter. In fact, when TideNation writer Alex Scarborough and GeauxTigerNation writer Gary Laney sat down to make up a top 10 list of the best games since 2007, determining No. 1 was so difficult they had to split the difference and stop just short of calling it a tie.

Looking at numbers three through seven wasn't much simpler. But they persevered and ranked the games from best to worst, and here's the order they came up with:


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BATON ROUGE, La. -- It's only going to look like an all-comer's combine.

LSU's Pro Day on Wednesday will feature a whopping 28 participants, the result of a year where the Tigers sent 13 players to the NFL combine. Among the players will will participate is former LSU player Tyrann Mathieu.

Of the 28, 21 were members of LSU's 2012 team, while seven more participants were members of past LSU teams and are trying to catch the interest of teams as free agents.

Fans can watch the event live on ESPN3 at 1 p.m. ET.

Here are the players who are participating, according to LSU:

2012 team members: DE Chauncey Aghayere, K Drew Alleman, TE Chase Clement, DT Josh Downs, OT Josh Dworaczyk, DE Lavar Edwards, OT Chris Faulk, RB Michael Ford, DT Bennie Logan, C P.J. Lonergan, DB-KR Tyrann Mathieu, DE Barkevious Mingo, LB Kevin Minter, DE Sam Montgomery, S Eric Reid, WR Russell Shepard, CB Tharold Simon, RB Spencer Ware, P Brad Wing, DT Cleveland Davis, TE Tyler Edwards

Past Players (last year at LSU): OG Will Blackwell (2011), LB-DB Karnell Hatcher (2011), OL T-Bob Hebert (2011), QB Jordan Jefferson (2011), QB Jarrett Lee (2011), DS Alex Russian (2011), RB Charles Scott (2009).

Trust key for LSU passing game

October, 11, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- In the season's first six games, LSU wide receivers have caught 65 passes -- not many when one considers that the Tigers have dropped close to 20.

Still, wide receiver Jarvis Landry doesn't want to portray the group as "struggling."

"We're not struggling at all," Landry said. "We're just trying to put [quarterback Zach Mettenberger] into a rhythm."

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireLSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger says, "We're so close to being a good offense."
It seems, right now, each part of LSU's passing game is dancing to its own song, perhaps a step off the beat. The offensive line has struggled to protect Mettenberger, both in terms of physically handling assigned blocks and getting to the proper block. Receivers have struggled to consistently run the right routes or run them well, and have struggled to hang on to catchable throws. Mettenberger tries to do too much and turns the ball over.

It adds up to a passing game that is 12th in the SEC (195.7 yards per game) and eighth in pass efficiency.

One would think the Tigers need to drastically improve to have any chance to rebound from last week's 14-6 loss to Florida. The Tigers continue to face a gantlet going forward, starting with Saturday's home game against South Carolina and continuing with games against Texas A&M and Alabama.

South Carolina leads the SEC in sacks, while A&M has the SEC's individual sack leader (Damontre Moore). Alabama has the nation's best defense.

It's hard to imagine LSU being able to simply run at any of the three. And if the Tigers are to balance the run with the pass, they will have to be much more in rhythm with each other than they have been, particularly recently.

The problems, they say, are largely ones that are correctable, which had many of those involved in the passing game frustrated a bit this week.

"We're so close to being a good offense," Mettenberger insisted.

What keeps it from happening?

"Little things," Landry said.

(Read full post)

Beckham regains swagger in time for UF

October, 2, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- In the second quarter Saturday, with LSU's offense trying to climb out of a miserable funk, Odell Beckham, Jr., got open behind the Towson defense.

Odell Beckham
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireOdell Beckham broke out against Towson after a slow start to the 2012 season.
The only receiver out for a pass on the play-action throw, he got free on a post pattern anyway and ran with nobody near him toward the back of the end zone, just in front of, and smack in between, Tiger Stadium's iconic double goalposts. The pass from Zach Mettenberger wasn't perfect -- Beckham had to turn and extend over his head to make a stumbling catch -- but he did haul it in nicely for a 27-yard touchdown, his first of the season.

With it, the dark clouds over Tiger Stadium and the LSU passing game seemed to lift.

He added another touchdown on a 53-yard bomb from Mettenberger in the fourth quarter of the 38-22 win, capping a night in which he seemed to put the troubles of a bad game a few weeks earlier against Washington behind him and, perhaps, shook LSU's passing offense to life.

"It's definitely a confidence builder," said Beckham after he caught five passes for a career-high 128 yards and also added a 30-yard punt return. "You have to take it as a learning experience and keep working every single day."

Beckham has had to learn to deal with the humility of a bad performance this season. Coming off a freshman season where he was second on the team in receiving with 41 catches for 475 yards and two touchdowns, the New Orleans native had struggled since the season's second game, when he fumbled the opening kickoff and dropped three passes during the Tigers' otherwise near-flawless 41-3 blowout of Washington.

The Towson game was the first all season where Beckham led the Tigers in receiving, a sign that he was getting back to his old self.

"Receiver, it's all about confidence," Metterberger said. "He had a great week of practice. He came into the week with confidence."

Self-confidence is not something that had been lacking for Beckham. He quickly made a name for himself as a true freshman in 2011, passing by many older receivers to become the Tigers No. 2 receiver and the starter opposite Rueben Randle. He was a reliable secondary target for both Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee when defenses focused their attention on Randle.

Mettenberger said Beckham's natural self-confidence was part of his freshman success and he saw it again against Towson.

(Read full post)

Kadron Boone Mettenberger's TD target 

September, 12, 2012
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BATON ROUGE -- With Jordan Jefferson still suspended and starter Jarrett Lee having led LSU to a 25-point half lead, quarterback Zach Mettenberger got the most significant snaps of his sophomore season in a 49-3 Sept. 10, 2011 win over Northwestern State.

Playing the entire second half, Mettenberger completed 8 of 11 passes (the only passes he threw all season) for 92 yards, including his first, and only, touchdown pass of the season, a 19-yard fourth-quarter touchdown to little-used receiver Kadron Boone.

It was, evidently, a sign of things to come.

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News and notes: Week 1 

September, 2, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- A bit of perspective for anyone stressing Zach Mettenberger's so-so start to 2012: Turn the calendar back one year.

Zach Mettenberger
AP Photo/Bill HaberLSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger walks the sidelines after being knocked out of Saturday's game with a shoulder bruise.
Although he spent part of the first half on the sideline with a shoulder bruise and had troubles at time getting into a rhythm with his receivers, all one has to do is review the 2011 season to be a bit more forgiving of Mettenberger's 17-of-26 debut, totaling 192 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Compared to the Tigers' two-headed combo of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson last fall, Mettenberger just threw the third-highest number of completions for an LSU quarterback in the last 15 games. His 26 completions are also the third-highest in the last calendar year -- behind Lee's 28 attempts against West Virginia and Jefferson's 29 against Arkansas.

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Mettenberger shines in final scrimmage

August, 21, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- If there weren't enough expectations built up for new LSU quarterback Zack Mettenberger and the Tigers' new-look passing game, there probably will be after LSU's final scrimmage Tuesday.

Mettenberger, getting extended action in the last full scrimmage before the start of the regular season, completed 26 of 36 passes for 336 yards, "a number of touchdowns," and one interception according to LSU coach Les Miles, in a closed and long scrimmage at Tiger Stadium.

As is the case with all LSU scrimmages, the workout was closed from both the public and the media. Statistics were provided by Miles.

Playing against second-team defenders, Mettenberger threw for almost as many yards as he did in the first two scrimmages combined and also played more as the LSU coaches looked to fine tune things in the last "camp" practice before their attention gets turned to the Aug. 1 opener against North Texas.

(Read full post)

Countdown to kickoff: Hello, Alabama 

August, 20, 2012
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GeauxTigerNation writers Gary Laney and David Helman get you ready for the season with a daily breakdown throughout August of what LSU is facing in the fall, from its opponents, to its road trips to who it's recruiting. Today, Gary Laney asked the questions in a Q&A with Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com's TideNation, which covers all things Alabama:

[+] EnlargeAlabama/LSU
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesRevenge will be a motivating factor for LSU when the Tigers face Alabama this season.
Q: What's going to be harder to replace, Trent Richardson's running or all of quarterback AJ McCarron's favorite targets?

A: If you're talking in terms of production, I think there are other, more troubling areas than the running or passing game, namely the secondary. Eddie Lacy is a load at running back and there are legitimately two or three capable backups behind him. The rotation could remind LSU fans of when Nick Saban used Joseph Addai and others to win the title in 2003.

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Countdown to kickoff: Houston ties 

August, 2, 2012
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Welcome to Houston, LSU.

Ok, that's a bit dramatic. Anyone who has been paying attention to LSU football during its run of dominance this past decade knows that Houston has been a big factor in that success.

Brandon Lafell, Michael Brockers, Terrence Toliver, Danny McCray, Jarrett Lee -- all are LSU alums in the NFL, and all came from Houston or its outlying area. This year, starting safety Craig Loston and slot receiver Russell Shepard hail from Houston. Seventeen Texas-based players are on the Tigers' roster going into fall camp, and eight of them come from the Houston area.

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QBs in focus as Tigers report for camp 

August, 1, 2012
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This was supposed to be the LSU August camp where the quarterback spot was finally going to be a settled issue.

[+] EnlargeRob Bolden
Rob Christy/US PresswireFormer Penn State QB Rob Bolden was planning to transfer before scandal hit Happy Valley.
There is no more Jordan Jefferson vs. Jarrett Lee controversy. It's Zach Mettenberger's team and that was supposed to be the extent of the story.

It has not worked out that way.

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Countdown to camp: LSU's Mett-siah? 

July, 9, 2012
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GeauxTigerNation writers David Helman and Gary Laney break down the competitions, issues and talking points of LSU's August camp. Players report to campus Aug. 1 and we'll have a preview segment every weekday in July leading up to the day the players report:

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger
Spruce Derden/US PresswireZach Mettenberger dramatically changes LSU's passing game.
The Tiger Stadium crowd at LSU's spring game seemed to hang with Zach Mettenberger's every move.

When he launched perfect bombs of 49 and 53 yards to Odell Beckham, Jr. the 33,000 fans howled not just with delight, but relief that the Tigers have a guy who can make those throws.

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Eight sign as undrafted free agents

April, 30, 2012
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Only five of LSU's NFL hopefuls made it into the seven rounds of the NFL draft, but plenty more were involved in a flurry of free agent activity during the weekend.

[+] EnlargeJarrett Lee
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireThe San Diego Chargers signed former LSU QB Jarrett Lee to a free agent deal.
Following the draft's conclusion Saturday night, NFL teams began contacting valued undrafted players about signing free agent contracts. To date, eight LSU players have joined the professional ranks as undrafted free agents, the school announced Monday morning.

Several of those players will be joining their draft pick counterparts. Both center T-Bob Hebert and tight end Deangelo Peterson signed with the St. Louis Rams, who drafted defensive tackle Michael Brockers 14th overall Thursday night.

After San Diego drafted Brandon Taylor in the third round Friday night, the Chargers signed quarterback Jarrett Lee to a free agent deal. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also picked up multiple LSU products, as they signed both linebacker Ryan Baker and quarterback Jordan Jefferson to contracts.

Defensive end Kendrick Adams signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and guard Will Blackwell signed with the Carolina Panthers. Fullback James Stampley has been invited to a free agent tryout with the Seattle Seahawks.

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