What Brandon Harris Needs to Do to Win LSU's QB Job in Fall Camp

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJuly 30, 2014

USA Today

The countdown is on to one of the biggest Week 1 matchups in college football, when LSU takes on Wisconsin in Houston on Aug. 30.

Before then, though, LSU has to settle on a quarterback. Simply put, the month of August is one of the most critical months in recent LSU football history.

Anthony Jennings, the incumbent, stepped in for Zach Mettenberger when Mettenberger tore his ACL late in the regular-season finale against Arkansas. All Jennings did was lead the Tigers on a 99-yard game-winning touchdown drive.

LSU QBs Brandon Harris (6) and Anthony Jennings (10)
LSU QBs Brandon Harris (6) and Anthony Jennings (10)USA TODAY Sports

In his first career start, which came in the Outback Bowl against Iowa, it was a different story. He completed just 36.8 percent of his passes (7-of-19) for 82 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. On top of that, he was sacked four times and looked incredibly indecisive in the pocket.

Those problems continued in the spring game, when he completed nine passes in 17 attempts, for one touchdown and two picks, according to stats released by LSU.

That opened the door for true freshman Brandon Harris to win the job, and he's on the brink of kicking it down based on what head coach Les Miles said in Hoover, Alabama, in July at SEC media days.

"We're a team that will expect some of these freshmen to come in and play," Miles said. "(RB) Leonard Fournette, (WR) Malachi Dupre, (LB) C.J. Garrett and (QB) Brandon Harris, to name four freshmen that we would expect to have great impact on our season."

Great impact? If you weren't on Harris' bandwagon before, that should certainly force you to re-evaluate. 

What does Harris need to do to win the job during fall camp?

LSU QB Brandon Harris
LSU QB Brandon HarrisUSA TODAY Sports


Find a Go-To Receiver

LSU is remarkably short on experience at wide receiver, with Travin Dural—he of seven total catches last year—coming in as their most experienced target.

LSU WR Malachi Dupre
LSU WR Malachi DupreUSA TODAY Sports

Whether it's Dural—whom he hooked up with three times in the spring gameanother veteran or one of the summer arrivals like 5-star stud Dupre, developing (or continuing the development) his go-to receiver is key.

Dupre could be the guy. At 6'3", 188 pounds, he presents matchup nightmares downfield against smaller defensive backs, but has the frame to become a dangerous weapons over the middle as a possession receivers.

Miles already saw what kind of upside Harris has in spring camp.

"Probably the best thing about him is he anticipates that great play," Miles said. "He has the opportunity to see it and has the arm to get it there. There's some real advantages with him."

Once he establishes that connection, the rest of the pieces of the puzzle can filter in around him. It will allow him to be more comfortable in the pocket and, more importantly, take advantage of the glaring weakness Jennings has showed during his brief stint at the starter. 

LSU QB Brandon Harris
LSU QB Brandon HarrisUSA TODAY Sports


Make Smart Decisions

LSU's offense will take on more of a dual-threat flavor this year no matter who wins the job, and whoever shows the ability to play smart will likely win the job.

This is where Harris can really distance himself from Jennings.

LSU QB Brandon Harris
LSU QB Brandon HarrisUSA TODAY Sports

He needs to show the ability to come off his first option and go through his progressions in the passing game, know when to take off and run and learn to throw the ball away instead of taking sacks. 

That will be key for LSU because, while it's essentially a clean slate at every skill position, the one skill position of relative strength coming in is at running back, where veterans Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard are holding down the fort until No. 1 overall prospect Leonard Fournette is ready to take over.

LSU needs those running backs to be in advantageous situations, and taking sacks does the opposite. If Harris can avoid those, the job should be his.

LSU QB Brandon Harris
LSU QB Brandon HarrisUSA TODAY Sports


Be Dynamic On The Ground

Both Jennings and Harris are dangerous on the ground, but Harris has the ability to be more dynamic. He rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. Not only can he be a force with his legs downfield, but creating plays behind the line of scrimmage.

"He is a guy that has real strength," Miles said. "He's innately accurate. He's got great footwork. He can extend a play, get out of the pocket, move around."

LSU QB Brandon Harris
LSU QB Brandon HarrisUSA TODAY Sports

The ability to extend plays behind the line while also posing a threat with the ball in his hands downfield will make Harris difficult to defend. Combine his ability on the ground with Magee, Hilliard and—eventually—Fournette, and LSU has the perfect recipe to weather the storm created by major roster turnover.

If the battle is equal—or even close—through the air, Harris' ability as a runner could be what ultimately wins him the job.

LSU opens camp on Aug. 4, which leaves Miles less than a month to decide on his quarterback. Don't be surprised if it's Harris. 


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.