Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jennings and Harris: It's Not A Quarterback Controversy At LSU

Controversy: noun 1. a discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views.

Based on what Merriam-Webster has to say, LSU does not have a quarterback "controversy" brewing between sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris (Parkway High School '14). 

It's either going to be Jennings or Harris trotting onto the field with the first team offense against Wisconsin on August 30th in the season opener.  Until there is a body of work from the rookie (Harris) to compare to the "veteran (Jennings)", how can anyone speak intelligently with an opposing view of the decision Les Miles and Cam Cameron will make? 

Sides can be taken prior to the game experience playing out before us but isn't that a borderline "popularity contest?"  If LSU's season ended after the Arkansas game with Jennings engineering the game-winning touchdown, there would be little public debate on who should be the starter against the Badgers. 

 East 70th near Fern in Shreveport
5000 Benton Road in Bossier City
"Let the freshman earn his way into the lineup," or, "the kid from Parkway needs to learn the ropes before he takes the field," would be the general feelings of Tiger faithful. 

But that's "not" when the season ended. Jennings struggled against Iowa in the Capital One Bowl after having 15 practices with full knowledge of being "the man" against the Hawkeyes.   Coupled with Harris' solid and sometimes spectacular play in the Spring Game, we are left with this: Two quality young men battling it out for the starting gig.

Brandon Harris on Media Day
Each has the leadership skills coaches covet and teammates gravitate toward. 

Harris said, "Becoming a leader down here, when you're a young guy in a program like where we have some seniors that may be 22 years old and you're an 18, 19 year old kid, it's a difference, man. It's a really big difference. Our guys want to see a leader, see a guy that will get in the huddle and say, 'Look, we've got to do this, we've got to do that.' That's what older guys adapt to."

Jennings believes leadership starts by example. If #10 is the starter or second-string, he says, "I come in with the mindset that I'm the starter. That's how Coach Cam (LSU offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron) preached to us. That's what I did last year.  I thought I was the starter each game."

Both have the talent worthy of drawing interest from major colleges (Jennings turned down Oregon, Washington, Nebraska, Ole Miss, etc. while Harris spurned Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, Arkansas and Texas A&M among others) before choosing LSU.

Harris, who has a howitzer for an arm, can wow with his velocity. He remembered early in the spring when some of the older players watched a session. "They saw us throw and said, 'This kid can throw.'" However, the former all-state performer for David Feaster at Parkway knows it takes more than frozen ropes to hang up a row of "W's". 

Anthony Jennings on Media Day
"At this level it's much more than having the ability to throw. When you're a young guy, you're kind of that new, shiny toy because you can do this and that but at the same time, you've got to have the mental side of the game and that's what I've started to develop," Harris said.

The thicker Jennings could be more punishing as a runner than Harris and sounds like he's ready if things get physical. "Taking hits is just mental. WE have all these pads on, rib protectors. Getting hit is really just a part of the game of football."

Both players can move in the pocket, which benefits them greatly on Saturdays. Harris also believes there are other rewards to being mobile. "This gives our defense another aspect to work on. If they face a team, just off the top of my head, like Auburn with Nick Marshall... he's an athletic type guy who runs the ball and runs around doing different things. That's beneficial for our defense. It's not like 'Chief (defensive coordinator John Chavis)' needs any help because he's intelligent as it is, but if it helps our defense, I'm all for it."

Both guys covet the starting job but neither is going to be lost in the wilderness without the 1st team badge. "I don't really care. It's not that big of a thing to me. Any of our guys are ready to play, I don't care if it's me, Anthony, Brad (Kragthorpe), Jake (Clise) or Jared (Foster). We're ready to play," Harris said.

Gibsland Bank & Trust
Highway 80 in Bossier City
Mansfield Road and Williamson Way in Shreveport

Jennings is fully aware of the attention Harris is receiving despite never having taken a snap in a college football game. He also has seen what the younger man can do with the ball in his hands, completely understanding why this duel is taking place. "I love it.  I came to LSU knowing there would be great competition.  Great players come here every year. I'm just trying to get better than I was yesterday. Not trying to compete with anybody, just compete with yourself. That way, you get better than you were yesterday and things will start rolling in the right direction."

Miles has a formula concocted that will determine the top gun. Imagine if "The Hat" chose to use the written word, an essay contest, to choose his starter.  Jennings was asked what his opening line would be if that were the case.

"I'm the toughest guy in America. Simple."

Mentally? Physically? Both?


Good. Because that's what solid play from the position will mean for the success of the Tigers offensively this season.