Friday, September 26, 2008

Southern QB Lee Has Eye On SWAC Crown

By Jordan Ingram
Tribune Correspondent

Making smart decisions is respected whether a quarterback’s playing NCAA Division I or Pee Wee football.
Southern University signal caller Bryant Lee has made a name for himself by making interceptions a seldom occurrence.
The 6-foot-2 junior, who was selected as the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, has only thrown one interception so far this season. Over the past 13 games, Lee has only been picked off five times.
Lee’s spectacular play hasn’t gone unnoticed by football-crazy fans on Southern’s campus. His popularity was so high that a student designed the 2008 EA College Football poster with Lee on the cover that currently graces his Facebook page. The team oriented Lee appreciates the honor but hasn’t lost focus of the Jaguars’ true goals.
“All of this stuff is good, but it doesn’t really mean nothing, because our main goal is to get to the [SWAC] championship game and winning,” said Lee.
His penchant for keeping turnovers to a minimum has already caught the eye of ESPN Black College analyst Eddie Robinson Jr.
“He’s a real efficient quarterback that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes but that can still make big plays,” said Robinson. “Even though he’s still a young guy he’s still one of the more experienced quarterbacks in the SWAC Conference.”
Far from conservative, Lee has averaged 226.7 yards per contest in 2008 and has a 66.3 completion percentage. Though the Jaguars are currently 1-2, the offense has been producing a healthy 28 points per game. Lee admits that the team expected to perform better early in the season.
“We don’t have the record that we wanted going into SWAC play but I think we’re starting to get on the right track,” said Lee. “The win against Mississippi Valley [week three] gave us a huge boost going into the bye week.”
The biggest dud of the season came on opening day when the D-IAA Southern lost to D-I Houston by 52 points. Southern’s offense only managed three points and the 39 yards rushing made head coach Pete Richardson’s gameplan one-dimensional.
Being blown out by a Bowl Subdivision team was disappointing for the potential NFL prospect. Even though Lee threw no touchdowns against Houston, he still produced a season-high 58-yard passing attempt. Robinson, a former NFL star with the Tennessee Titans, believes that blame isn’t solely on Lee.
“One thing you have to look at when a D-IAA school plays against a D-I program is not just the talent level of the quarterback position but the skill level of the team,” Robinson said. “At some point, quite frankly, the Southern offensive line is going to get outmanned by Houston’s [defensive] players up front. The quarterback spot is a team position and if you don’t have protection to throw or wide receivers that can get open it’s hard to look good.”
More importantly, Lee says that the Jaguars got into the win column by committing less penalties. Southern lost a close game to Tennessee State because they allowed 34 points and had nine penalties for 113 yards. Lee was thought that the team’s discipline showed signs of improvement in their rout of Mississippi Valley.
“We wanted to start executing better as a team,” said Lee. “Special teams made a lot of plays that helped the offense out [against Mississippi Valley] and as an offense we re-dedicated ourselves to the film room to make sure we had our reads right.”
Lee is the epitome of diligence. While most of his teammates are having fun in their spare time, the Louisiana native can be found resting his body and getting extra hours in the film room. During the bye week, the soft-spoken Lee has also devoted extra time with Strength and Conditioning coach Thomas Hall to stay in better shape.
Heading into their showdown with Alcorn State, Lee feels that the Jaguars are more focused at 1-2 than they would’ve been at 3-0.
“I think we’re saying to ourselves that [being 1-2] is going to help us out because we didn’t want to go in the SWAC season with big heads and underestimate a couple teams,” said Lee.
Off the field, the star quarterback also benefits from having an understanding safety net during his leisure time. Girlfriend Jamicka Pugh is a senior defender for Southern’s soccer team and keeps his competitive juices flowing.
“She understands how dedicated I am to being in the film room she goes through the same thing too,” Lee said. “We’re always competing against each other in everything we do so it makes me that much better on the field.”
Lee wants to be on top of his game the final two years of his college career in order to get a shot at the NFL. With former SWAC quarterbacks like Steve McNair finding success at the pro level, the opportunity is there. The flexible Lee would prefer to be a quarterback in the pros but wouldn’t rule out if his position were to be changed in the NFL.
“It truly wouldn’t matter to me because I know I can get the job done at any position,” said Lee. “I’m really just looking forward to working hard to get in the position to get drafted in the first place.”
Before the junior can set his sights on the NFL, Lee has to navigate through a strenuous SWAC schedule. With teams like undefeated Prairie View A & M on the horizon, the road to the championship won’t be easy.
On the road to getting over the hurdle in the SWAC conference, the second-year starter already has certain games penciled in on his calendar.
“I look at Alabama A & M and Arkansas Pine Bluff because I haven’t beaten them yet so those will be important to me,” said Lee. “There were a few mistakes made by us offensively and defensively in the past so I’ll be looking forward to playing those two games.”
If the game-winning decisions are put in Lee’s hands, the safe bet should be on Southern.

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