For the first time since media day in August, LSU made multiple quarterbacks available to speak with reporters on Tuesday.
And speak, they did. Purdue transfer Danny Etling and incumbent starter Brandon Harris talked to reporters for nearly a combined 30 minutes following LSU’s spring practice.
Here’s the story from those interviews. Below, you’ll find their best answers to questions from those segments.
Q: How much different does this spring practice feel? It’s your third.
Harris: This is my first spring where I’m taking the first team reps so you take all of the first team reps and the first spring I’ve done that. More confident. I guess the guys are familiar with hearing one voice. It’s been an exciting spring so far.
Q: You must feel a good rapport with Malachi Dupre starting Year 3?
Harris: It’s been that way coming out of high school. Me and Malachi have always got that rapport. Not only him but D.J. (Chark) is having a great spring. Backs are doing a hell of a job catching the ball. The line is doing a great job of pass protecting. Me and Cam (Cameron) are continuing to jell. Going into the third spring, he’s familiar with what I like to do.
Q: How about the mid-year enrollees?
Harris: They’re studs. Stephen (Sullivan) and Dee Anderson. Two big guys, phenomenal talent. Hard workers. They’re not your typical average freshmen.
Q: How are you improving your touch passes?
Harris: Coach (Dameyune) Craig came in, new receivers coach and me and him had a bond, recruited me to Auburn.
He’s able to help me … he was a similar player. I don’t think it’s necessarily throwing the ball hard. I don’t try to throw the ball hard to them. God blessed me with an unbelievable gift, and with that gift, I understand you’ve got to take some off of it. I understand if guys are wide open.
The drills he has us doing and he’s given Cam to help me, it helped me tremendously.
Q: What’s your comfort level with the playbook?
Harris: It’s the third spring. Cam has a familiarity with what I like to run. Our receivers know, when they hear the formation, they kind of know what plays to kind of put those in.
Q: What has Danny Etling brought to the QB room?
Harris: Danny started some things in the Big Ten. He’s an unbelievable person, great, great teammate. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Really, really hard worker.
He’s a redshirt junior so he could be a senior. He’s able to help me from the stand point of he’s played, started more game than me, I’m assuming.
Great guy to have in the quarterback room. His leadership and veteran presence … you come to work and we get along so well and push one another.
He’s an accurate thrower. Hard worker. Great, great, great person. Somebody I really like. To me, he’s a role model. Great guy.
Q: How comfortable were you with Cam Cameron on the sidelines during the bowl game?
Harris: There’s a lot of confidence. From communication to getting to hear his voice … I think you’ll see this upcoming season with him being on the sideline that our offense will soar and be what we want it to be just because of his voice and him being down there and able to communicate with the quarterbacks. It’s paramount. Very important.
His years of experience and he understands – he played quarterback – so whenever something isn’t going right or I need to communicate with something …
Q: Have you noticed some of the changes in LSU’s passing drills in practice as Les Miles talked about last month?
Harris: I don’t think we need to make any changes on our offense. We just need to execute what’s being called. A lot of times, that’s not happening. A lot of that is on me. Again, we had all that happen in the bowl game where we took the right direction with Cam on the sidelines.
I know something may happen to Cam where he couldn’t be on the sideline for one game. Who knows? He went through what he went through last year. We’ve just got to be on the right page. That’s on my communicating everything. What’s called, we’ve got to execute. A lot of the stuff is great calls. We’ve just got to execute.
Q: What was the difference after the game against Western Kentucky? You slid statistically and the team lost three straight.
Harris: Teams have seven weeks of film on you. Teams are going to play you different as a quarterback. My main thing this upcoming season is understanding that and building off of it. Again, just making progress in the right direction. As a starting quarterback, you’ve got to expect those things.
Q: How did having Cameron on the sideline come about?
Harris: I went up to coach one day and said, ‘Hey can we have him on the sideline?’ We had a month to prepare for the bowl game. That’s when he was getting back healthy. Health reasons were reasons he couldn’t be on the sideline.
I went to him and said, ‘Hey, can we have him on the sideline.’ He came down and we had our best game offensively.
Q: What were your pros and cons last season?
Harris: We started off hot. We just got to continue to improve. Every team is going to play you different. Teams have different games on you. We’ve just got to improve. The bowl game was a great start to this upcoming season.
Like I told the guys, we watch teams that were in the playoff hunt last year. They won their bowl game and they used that as momentum going into the next season. That’s what we’re doing.
Q: What are your personal goals for the spring?
Harris: I’m just trying to continue to hone in and improve on my leadership. It’s amazing you get to take that first snap and guys get to hear that same voice that ended last year. We’re consistently honing in and improving, getting lined up and communicating.
We got two new coaches, two coaches I knew very well from my time being recruited, Coach (Dameyune) Craig especially at Auburn and a guy who’s played quarterback.
It’s helping so much with him coaching the receivers. He knows. He played quarterback. He can kind of teach the receivers what the quarterbacks are thinking.
Q: You finished toward the bottom in the SEC in several passing categories. How does that sit with you?
Harris: I get an accuracy sheet every single day after practice and a lot of that has to do with giving our receivers the opportunity to make catches and anticipate the ball coming out of my hand a little quicker.
That’s one thing I want to improve on in this offense. Obviously the completion percentage, but keep in mind, too, that we were first in the SEC in turnovers and not turning the ball over and second in the nation.
I’ll take those stats over the completion percentage. We’re not turning the ball over and giving our team an opportunity to win.
Q: What kind of different drills have Craig brought in?
Harris: Coach Craig came in – knew him very well from his time at Auburn and recruiting at Auburn, guy I look up to and serves as a role model to me. He came in, along with coach Cam, gave us some great quarterback drills, stuff that helped me with touch and different things he had to deal with over the course of his career. It’s really helped me.
After practice when we get our accuracy numbers… our completion percentage after practice, you can see where it continues to soar and go up.
Q: Is it frustrating, being in a quarterback competition again?
Harris: Nah. We play at LSU. We expect competition every single year. That’s the thing that brings out the best in every player. I don’t want anything ever handed to me – I don’t. It’s just that simple.
The minute you get relaxed, that’s when you see your play start to decline. Every day you come out there, you want to feel like your job is on the line.
Q: How much have you been able to learn from Brandon Harris?
Etling: We learn a lot. There’s no substitute for game reps and he got a lot of those. You get to watch those and learn those things and you can ask about experiences and learn about the offense from guys who have been a part of it.
It’s been good to kind of exchange information and talk about our experiences together.
Q: Les Miles said you were improving. How did that make you feel?
Etling: Makes me feel like I should work even harder, keep impressing him and keep doing my job and the best job for the team.
Q: What did you learn from your two years at Purdue?
Etling: I’m not the same quarterback I was as a freshman, going there and playing for the first time. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, especially in my college career. It was nice to have a year off and re-evaluate everything and change my style of play, and just, you know, learn football again and have fun with it.
Q: Do you expect to get a fair shot to play?
Etling: I’m not really worried about that honestly. I’m just worried about getting better. Everyone views it as that position just needs to play well, and, whatever I can do to help that position play well, is what I’m going to do. Other than that, I’m just excited to be here.
Q: How has Cameron challenged you?
Etling: Be smart with the football and take it play by play. Mental endurance of playing this exact play and just trying to be smart with the football and get us in a good play and get us to the next down. Just being smart.
Q: Do you see these spring scrimmage stats like auditions?
Etling: Every snap you take is an audition because your teammates see it. The film doesn’t lie. You can continue to show your teammates we can take care of the ball and get them in the right play. I think Brandon and I are going to continue to do that and the entire quarterback position will.
Q: How much did you know about LSU’s QB woes before you arrived here?
Etling: I think everywhere there’s quarterback controversy and quarterback issues. You were going to get that anywhere you went so I just kind of take it with a grain of salt and kind of move on from there.
Q: How comfortable are you with this offense?
Etling: I feel pretty comfortable with it honestly. It’s always tough without getting reps, which I didn’t get until now, but it’s good to take mental reps. But now that I’m starting to get the footwork down and everything, it’s been a lot easier.
Q: Has Cameron installed anything new this spring you didn’t study in the fall?
Cameron: You always in the spring try new things. It’s a good time to put new things in the offense and perfect things we already run. That’s kind of what we’ve been doing.
Q: Were you able to help Brandon through the struggles last season?
Etling: Quarterbacks as a room, we’re the only people who can understand what the other person has to go through. We understand where the ball is supposed to go.
Everyone’s always critical of them, but I think we’ve always got to stay supportive of each other and we do a good job of that. We don’t try to hold animosity to each other. I had to go through the same thing at Purdue.
I understand what he might have to go through. People say things to you and, you know, it kind of sucks.
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