LSU head coach Les Miles has a quarterback problem, yet he is afraid to admit it.
“We would think that we’re through the quarterback misery…development, if you will,” said Miles earlier this week, per Ross Dellenger of The Advocate.
Miles could not be more wrong. What he has now under center is far from complete.
LSU quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris combined to form the worst quarterback play in the SEC West. The stats speak for themselves:
|LSU Quarterback Statistics in 2014 (Min. 40 attempts)|
Despite Jennings and Harris' mediocre 2014, Miles raved about their potential when discussing the two quarterbacks heading into spring practice.
“I think that Brandon Harris will absolutely compete for the job, and I’m not discounting Anthony Jennings, just not going to do it...but Brandon Harris is faster, throws the ball harder and really runs hard," he said, per Dellenger. "Some fundamental things that he will improve on, and he’s ready to do so.”
Unless LSU gets a miracle transfer, it looks as if it will be Jennings or Harris leading the charge next season. Here is a look at the quarterback position for Miles in 2015.
The Tigers were atrocious at the game's most important position last season due in large part to Jennings. He completed 50 percent or less of his passes in nine of 13 games. The sophomore also only eclipsed 200 passing yards once.
There were times when Jennings shined.
His lone 200-yard game came in the season opener against Wisconsin, when he rallied the Tigers from a 24-7 second-half deficit to win 28-24. Jennings was clutch on the road against Florida as well, completing two late passes to receiver Travin Dural for the win.
Jennings should also be respected for his leadership. Fellow Tigers respect the effort he displays on every down he plays. Also, he never shies away from taking the blame for his mistakes.
Yet Jennings' ceiling is alarmingly low. His arm strength and accuracy are average. He can make plays with his legs, but his speed is nothing that scares defenses.
The area in which Jennings needs to improve the most is reading defenses. He often locks on to receivers, which allows talented secondaries to break up and intercept passes. Too often, he trusted Dural in heavy coverage instead of looking at his second and third options.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has a lot of work to do with Jennings if the Tigers are going to win with him under center.
Why Harris did not play more last season will forever be a mystery.
His ability shined early with spectacular performances against Mississippi State and New Mexico State in relief of Jennings. Nine of the 10 combined drives he led in those games resulted in touchdowns.
Harris was rewarded with a start on the road against Auburn. The true freshman performed atrociously, as he went 3-of-14 for 58 yards.
Miles would keep Harris mostly on the bench for the rest of the season. He only attempted one pass, as he stood on the sideline mainly to watch Jennings play below-average football.
After LSU's loss to Notre Dame, fans took to social media to display their frustration at the quarterback position. Harris responded that patience is the key:
The coaching staff is still high on Harris. He has a better arm and is a more potent runner than Jennings. It is now time for him to take the keys in the offseason and become the driving force of the offense.
LSU will have Brad Kragthorpe, Brandon Bergeron, Jake Clise and Jared Foster returning to the roster next season.
Kragthorpe served as the No. 3 quarterback last season, but like the others mentioned, he held a clipboard for most of the season.
The newcomer to the group will be early enrollee Justin McMillan of the 2015 recruiting class. McMillan, a 3-star dual-threat quarterback out of Cedar Hill, Texas, has an uphill battle ahead of him if he wants to challenge Jennings and Harris.
|Justin McMillan's High School Statistics|
McMillan's numbers at Cedar Hill High School were impressive, but he was aided by having 4-star 2015 receiving prospect Damarkus Lodge as his top target.
McMillan has an average arm strength and a light frame (6'1.5", 170 lbs). His elusiveness with his legs makes him dangerous when plays break down, though.
Louisiana church attendance records would be broken next Sunday if Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller announced he was transferring to LSU.
Miller, the 2012 and 2013 Big Ten Player of the Year, suffered a shoulder injury before Ohio State's season began. Backups J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones performed just fine without him, leading the Buckeyes to the first ever College Football Playoff Championship.
Miller could easily be the No. 3 quarterback in Columbus behind Barrett and Jones. The senior could transfer elsewhere to play his final year of eligibility without having to sit out a season.
Steve Schneider of WAFB reports there has been meaningful contact between him and LSU.
Notre Dame senior quarterback Everett Golson has also been in contact with LSU about possibly transferring to LSU, per Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune.
Golson was once considered one of the best quarterbacks in college football, but his sluggish close to 2014 cost him his starting job to Malik Zaire in the Music City Bowl against the Tigers.
Bleacher Report's Keith Arnold states there are multiple hurdles Golson must overcome in order to leave South Bend. With that said, if the Fighting Irish the signal-caller gets to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he would immediately put pressure on Jennings and Harris.
Miles is likelier to land Miller than Golson, though there is fierce competition for his services. Golson will likely participate in spring practice and can still get the job back from Zaire.
LSU would be beyond fortunate to land Miller, Golson or any transfer at all. Miles will not rule it out, but he said it is "unlikely" it will happen, per Dellenger.
Fans will not be entirely enthused about next year's team being led by Jennings or Harris. The quarterback position held the Tigers back last season and could do so again in 2015.
One should hope Harris makes major strides in the offseason because he is the most talented quarterback on LSU's roster. He has a better arm and can run faster than the other candidates for the starting job.
The Tigers are talented enough to win games with Jennings, yet LSU cannot consistently beat the SEC's best with him under center.
If Miles wants to reach the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2011, he needs to hope Harris becomes one of the SEC's best signal-callers.
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter at @CarterthePower.