Don't give up on Anthony Jennings after one sour outing as a true freshman in the 2014 Outback Bowl.
Oh my, who could have predicted LSU fans throwing an abundance of grievances regarding Jennings' performance 48 hours ago? On second thought, we should have all seen that coming.
So maybe the true freshman didn't shine brightly against one of the best defenses in the nation. That doesn't mean Tigers fans should throw in the towel on what still should be a bright future for Jennings. Fans set the bar too high after his performance against Arkansas, though, and they were destined to be let down.
This is why I stated one month ago that Jennings isn't the second coming of Johnny Football after his heroics against Arkansas. Because people jump to conclusions so quickly, Jennings fell a great distance from his pedestal Wednesday afternoon.
A common theme on Twitter and in the comment section of my live blog following the 21-14 LSU victory was how Jennings was not the answer at quarterback. It became so overwhelming that instead of addressing everyone individually, I decided to call a "town meeting," if you will, with this article.
Before we go any further, here are the facts:
- Jennings is a true freshman, who saw fewer than 12 game-time minutes on the field before starting against Iowa.
- The true freshman completed 37 percent of his passes for 82 yards and an interception in the Outback Bowl.
- Following Jennings' interception, he lost confidence, overthrowing wide receivers and never looking comfortable in the pocket, with Iowa linebacker James Morris wrecking havoc consistently.
Now, before we exterminate Jennings as the starting quarterback, let's look at a few reasons why the Tigers' fans are going overboard with criticism of this young star.
Iowa's Defense One of the Best Tigers Fans Have Seen This Season
First things first, Jennings is not Zach Mettenberger, so don't expect him to be.
While I've been told by Mettenberger and others that Jennings is excellent at progressing through his reads, I see him as a dual-threat quarterback before I see him as a pocket passer. He needs to gain experience before he can sit back in the pocket and pick defenses apart.
He couldn't do that against Iowa, and you know, not many teams could do it against the Hawkeyes this season. Iowa was 10th in the nation in passing defense, giving up just 175 passing yards per game.
So when a veteran linebacker corps and stout secondary faced off against a true freshman quarterback, who did you think would win?
Jennings' performance was underwhelming, but having to play against one of the best defenses in the nation in your first collegiate start is a massive task for any true freshman.
Cam Cameron Capable of Developing
Here's where the good news comes into play. Cam Cameron, the man who helped transform Mettenberger into a better quarterback (473 more passing yards, 6.1 better completion percentage and 10 more touchdown passes under Cameron's tutelage), can focus more of his time on Jennings.
And Cameron should have Jennings' full attention after his struggles in the bowl. Not that Jennings is that type of young man, but what if he would have dominated the game and relaxed a bit as a result in the offseason?
Instead of blaming his failures on a teammate or his youth, Jennings accepted his performance on Twitter and challenged himself for improvement.
Even though Jennings' showing was far from what Tigers fans anticipated, it should serve as a nice teaching tool for Cameron to sharpen his quarterback's skills.
Brandon Harris Will Challenge Him
Speaking of sharpening...
Judging by the way the reporters on site have talked about Brandon Harris at the Under Armour All-America High School Game, Harris has the tools to push for the Tigers' starting job.
Jennings will have a leg up in competition with his knowledge of Cameron's system, though, and the more time he spends with Cameron, the better he'll be for it.
Jennings, an intelligent young man, understands this.
Moving forward, I think LSU fans should take a smarter approach about jumping to conclusions. Don't crown a player after one drive, and surely don't doom a freshman's future after one bad game.
One bad performance is simply one bad performance. I can remember quite a few from Mettenberger in 2012. Look at what 2013 brought us.
With Cameron instructing Jennings and Harris providing depth to the position, let's learn from recent history and be patient with Jennings' development.
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