In the coming days, you may hear tales that Brandon Harris can cure male pattern baldness, is working on a patent for a new version of the Air Jordan and is such a sweet-singing tenor he could make Andrea Bocelli want to chuck it all and become a shepherd.
Let’s not fit the young man for Superman’s cape just yet. A couple of prayerful touchdown passes in the waning moments against Mississippi State and some nearly matchless mojo off the bench Saturday night in a 63-7 win against a New Mexico State team fighting well above its weight class doesn’t mean he’ll have a front-row seat at this year’s Heisman Trophy celebration.
But Harris should be LSU’s starting quarterback, now and for the rest of the season, even though the Tigers now leave Death Valley after a month at home and march into a potential valley of death at Auburn six days from now.
It’s not hard to see what LSU coach Les Miles saw in sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings. He had the in-game experience that Harris couldn’t hope to possess as a true freshman, and Miles hung his hopes on a running game and a defense that could prevent his having to rely too much on the green sapling arm of either of his scholarship quarterbacks. It was a sound theory — but one unapologetically exposed by Mississippi State.
I also understand the psychological dynamic likely at play here. If Miles makes the switch from Jennings to Harris, from a confidence perspective, you likely can’t go back, barring an injury. Jennings’ psyche — which appears to be fragile considering he has been off-limits to the media except after some games, even though he is a sophomore — probably wouldn’t allow it. There is no unscrambling that egg.
But what else could you possibly need to see that would tell you that Harris should take the reins?
Is it that Jennings seemed to be handing the job to Harris like it was a red-hot ingot with two interceptions and a fumble in the first quarter Saturday?
Is it the fact that, before he returned to the bench in triumph, Harris led LSU to touchdowns on nine of 10 possessions dating to the end of the Mississippi State game?
Is it that at Saturday’s halftime Harris had a quarterback rating of 314.4 and Jennings had a rating of minus-21.5? Minus-21.5? I didn’t know that was mathematically possible.
Is it that with Jennings in the game LSU’s offense seems plodding and timid, but with Harris in the game, the offense seems to click into a higher gear?
Is it that Harris just has the look, the swagger of a quarterback, like when he stepped up in the pocket against the Aggies’ rush and gunned a 27-yard touchdown pass on a string to fellow frosh Malachi Dupre?
It’s the “je ne sais quoi” of the lad that you want in a quarterback, that alchemy that we watched as Harris turned LSU’s leaden offense into gold. The bravado that has him convinced he has been the best all along, even though he’s been benched. The attitude that had him coming into the interview area one recent weekday and shaking hands of reporters all around, though he was on a gag order.
“Anthony Jennings is a better passer than this,” longtime LSU radio color analyst Doug Moreau said during Harris’ statement-making second quarter. “But since Brandon Harris came in the game, he seems to have ignited the team. They seem a step faster.”
It is a fearful thing to trust the offense to Harris as the Tigers take their still-not-ready-for-Broadway act on the road at Auburn and Florida. But it’s not like LSU seemed like it was going anywhere with Jennings at the helm.
There’s a decent chance Jennings will still be the starter at Auburn, though there’s also a chance he may ring up hit-and-run pitcher Mac Marshall and ask him if he can hitch a ride to Chipola College.
One quarterback’s fortune is another’s demise, and both can’t be celebrated with any semblance of humanity. If Harris is put in the driver’s seat of LSU’s potentially hot rod offense, hopefully it won’t end Jennings’ chance to be a key contributor.
But there is only room for one behind the wheel. Ultimately, Harris looks like the future of LSU’s quarterback position.
The future can be foreboding, but there’s no better time for the Tigers to go there than right now.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.