LSU's quarterback battle to continue

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Round 3 between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris is complete. So what comes next in the battle to become LSU's starting quarterback?

A lot more work, apparently, because Tigers coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron have no incentive to make a decision anytime soon.

"I'm going straight to work when school ends and going out to get work and just continue to improve," Harris said after completing 11 of 17 passes for 178 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in Saturday's spring game.

The good news for LSU fans is that the work Jennings, Harris and their receivers have put in since the end of last season is already paying dividends. Neither player was close to perfect in the spring game, but other than what Cameron estimated as approximately "half a dozen plays," he was giddy over the quarterbacks' improved decision making on Saturday.

"I thought the decision making was outstanding and I just feel good that we can build from here," Cameron said. "We're constantly trying to stack bricks on our performance. If you keep stacking bricks, stacking bricks, stacking quality performances -- we stacked another brick today that we can build on after final exams this summer. I think that was important today."

The competition between the two players started last spring, and Harris became the early favorite in the court of public opinion by outplaying Jennings in last year's spring game. However, LSU's coaches were obviously more comfortable with Jennings during the season -- even when he frequently struggled as a passer -- because he started 12 of the Tigers' 13 games and took almost every meaningful snap in the second half of the season.

Harris graded his performance on Saturday as a B, and Jennings probably would have offered a similar self-assessment after going 13-for-20 for 242 yards and two touchdowns.

As Cameron mentioned, Jennings made a few bad decisions -- like throwing into a crowd in the end zone -- and a couple of ugly throws, but he also showed signs of progress. Take his two-play drive to open the game, where he completed a 33-yard pass to tight end Colin Jeter in traffic and followed with a looping 37-yard touchdown pass to Malachi Dupre.

Even with a handful of mistakes, it was a huge step in the right direction from last year's spring game, when he tossed a pair of interceptions that LSU linebackers returned for touchdowns.

"This game will humble you, and it has," Jennings said. "I just have to continue to believe in myself. Obviously my coaches believe in me that I can do the right thing, So it's going to be just an uphill turn with me to just keep getting better each and every day."

Harris also lamented that the quarterbacks had to call too many timeouts because of personnel or formation issues, but both he and Cameron said those were valuable teaching moments.

"We had to burn more timeouts than we would want to burn, but I thought they really handled today with poise," Cameron said. "When things weren't right, call time out. Let's get everybody on the same page. They came over. I liked their body language, I liked their leadership, I liked their decision making."

Miles would not rule out rotating quarterbacks during the season, but said he would prefer to eventually settle on one starter who will handle the bulk of practice reps with the first-team offense.

Consistency will be one of the biggest factors for both players, Miles said.

"I think our quarterbacks are more competent, more capable, more confident," Miles said. "I think they'll continue to improve, continue to execute at a very high level. I don't know if they'll execute quite at that level, but I think they'll certainly be good enough for us to win. And who's the best quarterback? I'm going to defer and let the competition play out, but I think both guys distinguished themselves today as capable."

But nobody distinguished himself as a rock-solid lock to take the first snap in the Sept. 5 opener against McNeese State. The winner of that honor will remain the biggest question mark circling the Tigers throughout the summer months, and probably for most of preseason practice in August.

If Miles and Cameron find a suitable answer, they believe this LSU team has the potential to be great.

"[If] we get good quality quarterback play, I think we'll like where we can be -- and I think we'll be where we want to be," Miles said.


Alvin Roy Fourth Quarter Award (Outstanding performance in offseason program): Lewis Neal, Christian LaCouture, Ethan Pocic, K.J. Malone, Josh Boutte, Jordan Harper, Tommy LeBeau, Lamar Louis, Tre'Davious White, Jamal Adams, Reid Ferguson, Colin Jeter, John Diarse, Dwayne Thomas, John David Moore, Jake Clise, Andy Dodd, Kevin Toliver, Jevonte Domond, Brad Kragthorpe.

Eric Andolsek Leadership Award (Outstanding leadership in spring drills, offense): Ethan Pocic, Leonard Fournette, John David Moore.

Mike Miley Leadership Award (Outstanding leadership in spring drills, defense): Kendell Beckwith, Tre'Davious White, Christian LaCouture, Jalen Mills.

Ralph Norwood Performance Award (Outstanding performance in spring drills, offense): Jerald Hawkins, John Diarse, Dillon Gordon.

Toby Caston Performance Award (Outstanding performance in spring drills, defense): Davon Godchaux, Deion Jones, Jamal Adams.

Most Improved Award: Darrel Williams, Rickey Jefferson, Colin Jeter, Andy Dodd, Lamar Louis, Sione Teuhema, Jevonte Domond.

Jimmy Taylor Award (Comprehensive spring award for outstanding leadership, effort and performance): Ethan Pocic, Leonard Fournette, Jamal Adams, Davon Godchaux.

Jerry Stovall Special Teams Award: Reid Ferguson, Colby Delahoussaye, Trent Domingue.

Newcomer Award: Will Clapp, D.J. Chark, Kevin Toliver, Lewis Neal.

Overcoming Adversity Award: Tashawn Bower, Dwayne Thomas.

Coaches Award: Vadal Alexander, Duke Riley, Brad Kragthorpe, Lewis Neal.