LSU QBs summer outlook: Second-year magic for Brandon Harris?
And your starting LSU quarterback is …
Brandon Harris, of course.
LSU tried to create the impression during the spring that there was serious competition between the Tigers’ incumbent starter and Purdue transfer Danny Etling.
However, while it appears that Etling gives LSU a more viable backup option than Anthony Jennings last year (yeah, Jennings was a returning starter but had fallen completely out of favor), as the summer goes on, this looks like Harris’ job after a solid spring.
So the question now is, does Harris turn the corner the way Zach Mettenberger did in his second year as a starter? As a junior first-year starter in 2012, Mettenberger had a 128.3 passer rating while throwing for 200 yards a game and just 12 touchdowns. In his senior year in 2013, he had a 171.4 rating, threw for 257 yards a game and 22 touchdowns.
If Harris can take that same leap forward (his 130.6 rating, 2,165 yards and 13 touchdowns were all better numbers than Mettenberger’s first year as a starter), an LSU offense with Leonard Fournette dotting the “I” might be impossible to stop.
2015 Depth Chart
Starter: Brandon Harris (149-for-277 passing, 2,165 yards, 13 TDs, 6 INTs; 67 carries, 226 yards, 4 TDs). Reserves: Anthony Jennings (no statistics in two appearances); Danny Etling (redshirted); Justin McMillan (redshirted).
Projected 2016 Depth Chart
Starter: Brandon Harris (Jr.). Reserves (in projected depth chart order): Danny Etling (Jr.); Justin McMillan (RS-Fr.); Lindsey Scott (Fr.).
Five Issues to Watch
- Will there be competition?: Etling passed for 2,490 yards in 13 games over two seasons at Purdue, so there remains a possibility that, after sitting out last year as a transfer, Etling could push Harris for the job in August. That sense of competition may not have been there last year. Jennings, then the returning starter, seemed to be in the doghouse after an off-season arrest and barely saw the field before opting to leave the program. So Harris never really was pushed, not even when he slumped. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Etling, who got plenty of first-team snaps in the spring. “He makes the quarterback room better,” is how Les Miles characterizes it.
- Cameron second-year magic?: In Cam Cameron’s first year as offensive coordinator in 2013, he took incumbent starter Zach Mettneberger to a much higher level (see statistics above). Since then, he hasn’t had a second-year starter as Jennings did not hold on to the job for Year 2, giving in to Harris. Can Harris enjoy the same Year-2 bump Mettenberger enjoyed?
- A better QB room: By all accounts, the addition of Etling has led to a culture shift, where Harris and Etling lead more rigorous off-field preparations. Will that mean a more prepared Harris on Saturdays?
- Young Guns: McMillan, LSU’s Class of 2015 quarterback recruit, seems to be taking the slow route to playing time. After redshirting as a freshman in 2015, he took a back seat to the two older quarterbacks in the spring. We’ve yet to see 2016 recruit Lindsey Scott in a Tigers uniform as he was not among the freshmen who enrolled early in the spring. It’s not clear how prepared either will be if they are pressed into game action this season.
- Future upgrade?: Scott is a local hero, leading suburban Baton Rouge power Zachary to a state championship in Louisiana’s highest enrollment class last year. But like McMillan, he was a three-star recruit. In general, LSU’s reputation as a run-first program (see Fournette, Leonard) has led to trouble recruiting the same level of recruit at quarterback that it has found at most other positions. That could be changing though with 2017 commits Lowell Narcisse and Myles Brennan both making the Elite 11 finals at The Opening later this summer. It’s likely both will be four-star prospects by summer’s end, the first such LSU signees out of high school since Harris.