Losing his starting job a month into the season sparked quarterback Anthony Jennings to improve and work harder.
“I went back and looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘What things can I improve on?’ ” Jennings said.
Jennings is expected to get his fifth straight start when No. 20 LSU (7-3, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) meets Arkansas (4-5, 0-5) on Saturday in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Jennings threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in a home win over New Mexico State and was replaced by freshman Brandon Harris for the game at Auburn. He returned to the starting lineup a week later at Florida with a new outlook.
“I looked at myself,” he said. “I wanted to see things I can improve on and worked even harder than I already was to improve my game.”
He’s looking to improve on one main thing the rest of the season: completion percentage, he said.
The sophomore has completed just 47 percent of his passes this season, including a 40-percent mark over the past four games. LSU’s team completion rate of 48.9 percent ranks 122nd of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and Jennings spoke Monday about completion percentage. The quarterback called it a “big thing I have to improve on.”
“I take that upon myself to complete a ball at a higher rate,” Jennings said Monday in his first midweek interview of the season.
So why is Jennings struggling so much completing passes? Outside of drops — LSU had five against Alabama — Jennings is struggling with the physical part of the game, he said.
His decision-making has improved, but his accuracy is off. It’s the primary miscue that stands out when he rewatches himself during games.
Jennings watches himself some immediately after the games Saturday night into early Sunday morning, he said. He then rewatches each one of his plays Sunday.
“Coaches say I make great decisions with the football, just have to ... (improve the) physical aspect of putting it right where it needs to be,” he said. “It may be a little low here, a little high there.”
The game has slowed down for Jennings, he said, and he’s beginning to read defenses better. Those are improvements he notes in his game over his first season as a starting quarterback.
The quarterback is more comfortable with throwing on the run, a reason for the high number of rollout plays LSU has run recently.
“I’m definitely comfortable on the run,” he said. “I think he ball whips out of my hand when I’m on the run. It’s effortless to me. It’s one of the things that’s a strength in my game.”
The season has been somewhat of a roller coaster. Jennings said he’s “weathered the storm,” but knows there were missed opportunities along the way.
“I think that we had potential to go undefeated this year,” he said. “If I would have played better in a couple of those games. I think we would have won those games. ... I know I can play better, knowing my abilities to play football.”
Teammates encouraging Robinson
Before this season, much of the talk around the LSU defense regarded the potential of sophomore cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Rashard Robinson.
Before last weekend’s game against Alabama, though, Robinson was suspended because of a violation of team rules, and he hasn’t practiced with the squad in two weeks.
On Monday, LSU coach Les Miles said fans shouldn’t expect to see the Pompano Beach, Florida, native anytime soon.
Junior safety Jalen Mills said Robinson’s teammates haven’t cut off communication with him.
“Rashard was a brother,” Mills said. “He’s in our prayers, and we’re still talking to him and communicating with him. That didn’t change anything. We’re just waiting on him and looking forward to his return.”
With two games remaining on the schedule, it’s unlikely Robinson will return for the season finale against Texas A&M. Until then, Mills has continued to give his suspended teammate words of encouragement.
“We’re just telling him to keep his head up, and leave it all in God’s hands,” Mills said.
Hilliard “day to day”
Running back Kenny Hilliard is day-to-day heading into the game against Arkansas, and linebacker Kendell Beckwith practiced full speed Wednesday, Miles said.
Hilliard suffered a shoulder injury on the third play of the game against Alabama, and he did not return. He suffered the injury during a collision with Bama safety Landon Collins.
“Kenny got a little practice time today,” Miles said on his radio who Wednesday night. “I’m not necessarily certain he’s slated for duty.”
Beckwith strained a hamstring against Alabama but returned to the game. He said Monday that the hamstring was “pretty sore” and that he took limited reps in that practice.
Garrett to ‘probably’ redshirt
Freshman Clifton Garrett will “probably” redshirt this season, Miles said Wednesday on his radio show.
Garrett, a former five star prospect from Illinois, has played in two games - against New Mexico State and Louisiana-Monroe. LSU could file for a waiver to get Garrett a medical redshirt for this season. Players who have played in less than 30 percent of a team’s games and were injured in the first half of the season are eligible for medical redshirts.
Garrett was ranked as the No. 2 outside linebacker in the nation last year and was a key part in the Tigers No. 2-ranked signing class.
This is the first time since 2000 that LSU will close out its regular season with consecutive road games. That year, LSU played Ole Miss and Arkansas on the road. The Tigers have an off week before meeting Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night. ... This is just the second time since Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992 that the Tigers and Razorbacks game won’t end the regular season for both teams. ... LSU is 25-1 following a loss under Miles. The Tigers have lost back-to-back games only one time under Miles. That came in 2008 when the Tigers fell to Ole Miss and Arkansas in consecutive weeks.