On Saturday, LSU opens spring practice, and two quarterbacks will duke it out for the starting job — a hot competition that’ll likely stretch into fall camp and into the season itself.
Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris compete in Round 2 of the Tigers’ starting quarterback battle when LSU opens its 11th spring practice under coach Les Miles. The Tigers will have 15 spring practices — including two closed scrimmages — before the April 18 spring game in Tiger Stadium.
The two QBs, for the second straight season, begin spring drills — it seems — knotted ahead of what’s expected to be an intense duel that, like last year, may stretch through fall camp and into the 2015 season.
Or maybe it could be settled by mid-April.
“This will be a very competitive spring,” Miles said immediately after LSU’s bowl loss to Notre Dame. “Out of spring, I’d like to pick another starter. It could be Anthony. It could be, certainly, Brandon. Competition will have to continue there.”
The hope for many is that Harris will win a job that he couldn’t hang onto last season, flopping in his only start against Auburn and never seeing significant playing time again.
And Jennings? He was a lighting rod for criticism last season while leading an LSU passing game that finished 114th out of 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. As a sophomore, the Georgia native completed 48.9 percent of his passes — the worst by a starting QB at LSU since 2002.
Have no fear, LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said during a radio interview a few weeks ago. Cameron said LSU fans will see “markedly improved” quarterback play this season, and that Jennings and Harris continue “growing.”
The competition isn’t about who can pass better, he said.
“It’s not a throwing competition,” Cameron said in February on ESPN 104.5’s Culotta & The Prince. “For any quarterback, it’s still a leadership position. It’s decision-making. It’s growth. It’s the ability to be accurate.”
There are plenty of other storylines to spring practice.
LSU has three new assistant coaches, including the boisterous Ed Orgeron coaching the defensive line and a new defensive coordinator and linebackers in Kevin Steele. They both have a ton of replacing to do.
The Tigers lost defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco as well as leading tackler Kwon Alexander, an outside linebacker.
Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes must find a left tackle to replace La’el Collins, a projected first-round NFL pick. Jerald Hawkins is the favorite, but who gets his spot at right tackle? Elliott Porter leaves a void at center, too.
In fact, the line may shift so much that no starting lineman will play the same position he did in 2014.
And then there’s the void at cornerback that Jalen Collins (left early for the draft) and Rashard Robinson (dropped out of school) leave.
There’s a void at fullback, too. LSU has just one scholarship fullback on the roster: true freshman (and early enrollee) David Ducre.
A schematic change may lie ahead for LSU’s offense with the departure of starting fullback Connor Neighbors (eligibility) and his backup, Melvin Jones (dropped out of school).
“We’ve got to reinvent our ourselves to a degree,” Cameron said in the radio interview.
Running back Leonard Fournette heads into his first spring practice with expectations no lower than they were at the start of his freshman season last year. He set LSU’s all-time freshman rushing records, and Cameron said the running back will be “the focal point” of the Tigers offense.
“We don’t want to come out of games without Leonard touching the ball 20 times, 15 times,” he said.
The quarterback competition overshadows all of the other moving pieces at LSU, though.
Jennings or Harris? Harris or Jennings?
“We’re excited about the competition between those two,” Cameron said.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.