LSU has been practicing for more than a week, and the quarterback battle appears to be between two men—true sophomore Anthony Jennings and true freshman early enrollee Brandon Harris.
Those two have separated from redshirt freshman Hayden Rettig according to Ross Dellenger of the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate.
So who has the edge?
Jennings is clearly the favorite after leading a 99-yard game-winning drive in place of injured starter Zach Mettenberger against Arkansas last season, and then starting the Outback Bowl win over Iowa. But don't be surprised if Harris gives him a push.
Jennings clearly knows the newcomer is on his heels.
"Brandon’s throwing the ball well, still has a lot of things to learn in the offense, but I was in that predicament last year," he told Dellenger. "He’s throwing the ball well. He’s vocal. We’re all trying to get better as spring goes along."
For Harris—who threw for 3,518 yards, rushed for 1,153 and scored 54 total touchdowns last season for Parkway High School in Bossier City, La.—it isn't about beating Jennings right now. It's about getting close.
If he can get acquainted to the offense this spring and stay within arm's reach, he'll be able to hit the ground running during fall camp.
The X-factor in the LSU quarterback race is offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. In his second season running LSU's offense, the race to replace Mettenberger is as much about Cameron as it is about the quarterbacks themselves.
Jennings was able to run Cameron's offense in relief of Mettenberger, but struggled in the Outback Bowl completing just 7-of-19 passes for 82 yards and a pick—in a scheme that didn't look much different to the one LSU ran in the regular season.
Jennings is a pass-first, dual-threat quarterback who will thrive in a system that gets him out of the pocket.
Harris can do a lot of the same things.
The 6'3" 180-pounder has a big arm, tremendous pocket presence and is deceptively fast when he takes off. But he isn't a "running back playing quarterback." When he breaks the pocket, he keeps his eyes downfield instead of making one read and taking off. That will play well in Cameron's offense, because Cameron won't have to change much to fit his skills in terms of changing the offense.
In fact, it was already going to happen anyway.
In many respects, Harris and Jennings possess similar skills. So "getting it" is really the only piece of the puzzle left for Harris. Since the offense is clearly changing a bit to become one that thrives with a dual-threat quarterback, there's going to be a period of adjustment for Jennings too.
While Harris is adjusting to college, Cameron has to adjust to Jennings and Harris.
Essentially, the Tiger offense just hit the reset button.
With running back Jeremy Hill and wide receivers Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry all gone, the quarterbacks have to click with new superstars anyway. Establishing those connections early may help either quarterback win the job.
If Harris gets his sea legs this spring, don't be surprised if he wins the job this fall.
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