By now, you've probably heard about Brandon Harris waiting out last week's three-plus-hour weather delay by playing catch and reading LSU's call sheet in the under belly of Tiger Stadium, all while decked out in his uniform and pads. Even though the Tigers would never finish their opener against McNeese State, Harris made sure he was ready if the skies ever closed.
His two pass attempts -- a 4-yard loss and an under thrown deep ball -- from the beginning of that game won't count, but the sight of his dedication will.
If the much maligned, enigmatic true freshman version of LSU's quarterback could look at this year's version, he would likely be amazed at the maturation he showed before what would have been a mighty LSU rout. The monsoon that hovered over Baton Rouge ruined Harris' 2015 debut, but it helped us see a new and improved side of a quarterback who couldn't get out of his own way last year.
Harris, who spent just about all of 2014 as a perplexing backup -- full of potential, yet low on focus -- showed signs of evolution as a person and player. Now that he's officially the guy under center for the Tigers, Harris is ditching his old ways and is out to rewrite his story with the Tigers (0-0).
That begins (again) with redeeming himself this weekend against No. 25 Mississippi State (1-0) in his first official start since last season's disaster against Auburn. Quarterbacks can be fragile creatures, and it's important that Harris start well, because his psyche going forward could be dependent on Saturday's performance. This offense will need competent quarterback play if the Tigers are going to make a run.
That's all on Harris, who assured he's not the quarterback who struggled mightily in his last start.
"I’m a different quarterback than I was last year against Auburn," Harris said. "I’m focused on the task at hand: that’s watching film every day, getting ready for Mississippi State. I don’t plan on having the game we had last year."
For the sake of human eyesight, let's hope Harris doesn't repeat last year's abysmal performance on the Plains. Harris completed 3 of 14 passes for 58 yards and registered a QBR of 7.0. It was a major letdown for the former top recruit, who just two weeks prior came off the bench to toss two late touchdowns and throw for 140 yards in a near-comeback against Mississippi State.
However, the Auburn catastrophe sent Harris permanently to the bench to watch Anthony Jennings drag through a long 2014 season.
This spring started a heated competition between Harris and Jennings that ended with Harris prevailing during fall camp after taking the lion's share of reps. Harris benefited from a Jennings suspension, but it was clear he won the job with his play as well.
Saturday marks Harris' return to the limelight. Unfortunately, he won't have the luxury of a tune-up game to get his feet wet and his nerves settled. Coach Les Miles said this week that he doesn't think the unscheduled week off will affect Harris because of all the work he's had over the past month.
"He’s been around and taken snap after snap after snap for us, so he’s much improved and I think people will see that when he plays," Miles said.
The truth is that nothing beats live reps before conference play. No matter what Harris has done in practice for the past month, he's still going to be cold to start against the Bulldogs.
Harris doesn't seem concerned about that because of the obvious improvement he feels he's made.
"I thought I had a great fall camp," Harris said. "I was executing and obviously not playing backyard football anymore. I don’t know, I kind of felt good and understanding what I was doing. That was kind of the whole thing that I thought forever was holding me back, just not understanding the full answers of the offense, and now I do."
Those world-record-setting cowbells will be clanging under the lights inside Davis Wade Stadium, but Harris isn't worried.
He's just planning to play more catch.
"When you watch the game this Saturday, you won’t see that same stuff as far as Brandon panicking in the pocket or anything like this," he said. "I know where all the reads are, I know where to go with the ball."