LSU’s quarterback battle has reignited — at least that’s what it seems.
Freshman Brandon Harris deserves more playing time after his performance late in the loss to Mississippi State, coach Les Miles said Monday during his weekly news conference.
“He earned some more playing time without question, and he earned some more consideration at quarterback,” Miles said. “He makes a case for Brandon Harris at quarterback.”
Harris, a highly rated dual-threat from Bossier City, threw for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 6-of-9 passing after entering with less than four minutes left in the 34-29 loss to now-No. 14 Mississippi State.
Harris and Anthony Jennings were locked in a tight battle for the starting job through spring practice and preseason camp, but Jennings won out. It appears the competition is still on as No. 17 LSU (3-1) heads into its final nonconference game Saturday against New Mexico State.
The battle will “play out” in practice, Miles said.
“We’ve got a long season ahead of us. Practice weeks are very revealing,” he said. “When there’s a separation there, that will be noticed, and changes will be made.”
A possible two-quarterback system hasn’t materialized.
Harris entered the games against Sam Houston State and Louisiana-Monroe with LSU leading by at least three touchdowns. He replaced Jennings against Mississippi State with the Tigers down 18 points, 3:43 left and backed up on their own 5-yard line.
Receiver Travin Dural said Harris “sparked” LSU with his energy off the bench. Might we see Harris more?
“I’m not sure,” Dural said. “It just depends on the week of practice he has. He’s going to come out here and practice hard, and hopefully the coaches give him a shot this weekend.”
Thomas out, Jennings OK
Junior defensive tackle Quentin Thomas is out for “a week or two,” Miles said, and Jennings is at “full strength.”
Thomas hurt his left arm in the fourth quarter. Jennings injured his left shoulder in the second quarter, when he landed hard during a sack. He appeared to reinjure the shoulder on his last offensive play, a sack on the LSU goal line.
Thomas’ absence dings an already-struggling position for the Tigers. Just three defensive tackles have been used during significant stretches, with converted defensive end Lewis Neal a fourth who plays in spots.
Freshman Davon Godchaux, third in the rotation with starters Thomas and Christian LaCouture, is expected to start in place of Thomas.
“It means somebody’s going to come up and play more. Somebody’s going to step up,” LaCouture said when asked about the injury to Thomas. “I know they will. We’ve got some great guys back there. They’ll step up to the challenge.”
Redshirt freshmen Greg Gilmore, Frank Herron and Maquedius Bain have rarely seen the field despite some preseason praise. Asked about them, Miles only mentioned Neal.
“The coaches are going to make the calls of who goes in and not on the field,” LaCouture said when asked about the trio. “I’m just trying to go out there and do my responsibilities. I’m not trying to see what’s going on with those guys. I know they’re busting their tails.”
Pocic at right guard
Ethan Pocic is expected to start again at right guard, Miles suggested.
Pocic, a sophomore from Illinois who started at center the first two games, started in place of Hoko Fanaika against Mississippi State. Fanaika replaced Pocic for at least two drives in the fourth quarter.
LSU’s offensive line has struggled this season, but Miles defended the unit.
“I cannot still say it’s the offensive line,” he said. “It’s the offensive line, it’s the running backs, it’s the quarterback, it’s the wide receivers. ... We need to make a collective adjustment.”
LSU sent video of Mississippi State center Dillon Day stomping on LSU players to the Southeastern Conference, Miles said.
Video surfaced Sunday of Day stepping on the stomach of Godchaux and on the leg of cornerback Rashard Robinson.
“I think not only did TV catch that, but that was something that we caught, that we sent in,” Miles said. “And certainly the conference will do the right thing.”
An SEC spokesman declined comment. Day, through his Twitter account, apologized in a letter addressed to Mississippi State fans. He said he was “wrongfully accused.”
Another night kick
LSU will open the season with six straight night games.
The Tigers’ game at No. 5 Auburn on Oct. 4 will kick off at 6 p.m. and be broadcast on ESPN. CBS chose Ole Miss-Alabama for its afternoon kickoff time.
LSU’s previous four games have started after 6 p.m. The Tigers (3-1) meet the Aggies (2-2) at 6:30 p.m. in Tiger Stadium on Saturday in a game televised by the SEC Network.