BATON ROUGE, La. -- Throwing the ball downfield more effectively would be great, but that's only one of the ways LSU's quarterback play can improve this fall.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron made that point earlier this week in a local radio interview when he repeatedly emphasized the importance of his quarterbacks being willing to take what the defense gives them.
Asked to address his quarterbacks' high completion percentage in last Saturday's scrimmage, Cameron rattled off a list of plays where his quarterbacks worked through their progressions before hitting checkdown receivers for big gains:
A 60-yard completion to D.J. Chark off a 3-yard pass.
A 2-yard dump-off to Leonard Fournette that he took for a 30-yard gain.
Swing passes to Derrius Guice behind the line of scrimmage that resulted in pickups of 50 and 30 yards.
Sometimes it's just that simple, Cameron said.
"The plus for us is that it comes back to decision-making," Cameron said on the "Culotta & The Prince" morning show on 104.5 FM in Baton Rouge. "We've talked about this now for a couple years, we've got to continue to grow as decision-makers at the quarterback position. That showed up Saturday, probably it's been a good two-plus years before we've had a scrimmage like that where the QBs, 1 was covered, went to 2; 1 and 2 are covered, went to 3; 1, 2 and 3 were covered, went to 4. We got completions and now guys, we're getting yards after the catch."
LSU's passing game thrived with pro-style passer Zach Mettenberger in 2013, Cameron's first season at the controls. However, the Tigers struggled mightily under center in each of the last two seasons, first with Anthony Jennings in 2014 and then with Brandon Harris last fall.
Harris completed 53.8 percent of his passes last season, 11th among SEC starters, and the Tigers' passing attack ranked 105th nationally with an average of 180.4 yards per game. Jennings posted similar numbers the previous year.
A common theme in both of those seasons was inexperience at this vital position. Jennings was a sophomore and first-time starter in 2014. Same with Harris last year.
Whether Cameron settles on Harris or Purdue transfer Danny Etling as his starter this fall, he will be relying on an upperclassman who has a full season worth of starts under his belt. The value of having a veteran at quarterback can't be overstated.
"We're all experiential learners," Cameron said. "And you like to think that Brandon and Danny, who both have a wealth of experience and now they can take the things that they've learned and really elevate their game."
It was only a scrimmage, but the stats that LSU coach Les Miles supplied afterward indicate that they might be moving in the right direction. Harris went 16-for-20 for 246 yards, while Etling was 14-for-18 for 220 yards and redshirt freshman Justin McMillan went 11-for-14 for 226 yards.
Cameron credited the aforementioned skill players for making his quarterbacks look good in the scrimmage, and he added names like Malachi Dupre, Derrick Dillon, Jazz Ferguson, Russell Gage and early enrollee Stephen Sullivan to the list of receivers who helped the passing game click.
That position must develop playmakers behind starters Dupre and Travin Dural if LSU's passing game is to thrive once again. But it's no secret that the ceiling for LSU's offense is directly correlated to getting better play at quarterback.
"When our quarterbacks are making good decisions, we're going to be tough to beat," Cameron said.