Brandon Harris’ first pass flew high of receiver Malachi Dupre, careening off the receiver’s outstretched fingertips.
Harris’ second pass did the same: Dupre, high, fingertips.
Harris’ third pass flew so wide of Dupre that the receiver didn’t even bother to stretch out for it.
Arriving on the sideline after his 0-for-3 outing in LSU’s second offensive series of the season, Harris and coach Les Miles chatted.
“I said, ‘OK, now relax and just realize it's the same throw that you've been making. Just calm down,’ ” Miles said Tuesday. “I recognize that he's got to still come.”
And he’s got a deadline, too.
“He doesn't have a lifetime to do it, and there are other quarterbacks to go to,” the coach said in a revealing comment during his weekly news conference.
Three days after a sloppy season-opening loss against Wisconsin, the Tigers’ 12th-year coach admitted that his junior quarterback was “errant several times” Saturday. He spoke about Harris’ weaknesses, something he hasn’t often done, and said the evaluation of the quarterback position is “on-going.” Coaches are open to playing backup Danny Etling, Miles said, but “hopefully it’ll not have to be done for the necessity of victory.”
A game into its 2016 season, LSU’s much-maligned quarterback position is taking heat already, something it’s felt oh so much over the previous two seasons. The Tigers tumbled 16 spots in both major college-football polls. And national analysts, even former LSU players, are chiding Harris, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and Miles over a unit that failed to break the 260-yard mark Saturday.
Marcus Spears, LSU’s former defensive lineman now an analyst on ESPN, called Monday for change at the head coaching position.
Miles knows about the talk concerning his job, something that rose up in November and is, already, a topic ahead of the Tigers’ home opener against Jacksonville State (1-0), a Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse.
“I’m aware of what's going on and what's being said, etc.,” he said. “I recognize there's some things going on out there. I'll address them at the right time.”
He addressed his quarterback situation at length Tuesday, questioned multiple times on Harris’ 12-for-21, 131-yard performance. The quarterback misfired at least five times, including on his two interceptions — the last of which sealed the loss. Receiver Malachi Dupre dropped two passes, Miles added, and Harris didn’t “square" his shoulders to the target on the final interception.
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Harris, for the second straight week, is not being made available to reporters. Others have to speak for him.
“Brandon, in the locker room, he thought it was all on him,” center Ethan Pocic said Tuesday. “It’s not. It’s the offense, defense, special teams. There’s so many things that play into it.
“Like I told him,” Pocic continued, “we’ve got to give him more time.”
LSU’s offensive line allowed immediate pressure at least eight times among Harris’ 24 dropbacks Saturday. The quarterback felt pressure on his last three pass attempts, including that game-securing interception.
“That play,” Pocic said, “we needed to give Brandon more time. It’s not all on one person. You look at the O-line, quarterback, wide receivers.”
Harris re-enacted that play in practice Monday, Miles said, hitting Dupre for a touchdown. In practice and scrimmages, Harris is “tremendous,” the coach insisted.
What happens in the game?
“He's talented and capable decision making. Really, relaxing and letting the game come to him, at times, he struggles there,” Miles said.
Miles doesn’t plan to make any changes on LSU’s offensive line, he said Tuesday. The line, with two new tackles, struggled throughout the game. Miles chalked it up to injuries that left tackle K.J. Malone and left guard Will Clapp are battling.
The line “instead of really gaining a lot of ground in camp, we kind of treaded water there for a while” because of the injury situations, the coach said.
Maea Teuhema, who missed the first week of camp with a sprained ankle, is expected to fill in at right guard for Josh Boutte, a senior who is suspended for the game against Jacksonville State after an ejection late in the game against Wisconsin.
Maea Teuhema is back in a starting role.
There will be another change to LSU’s offense this weekend: coordinator Cam Cameron will be in the press box. All of LSU’s assistant coaches were on the field for the season opener, but Miles, because of communication issues from the press box, will move Cameron into the coach’s booth.
After LSU's offense sputtered in last week's 16-14 loss to Wisconsin, coordinator Cam Camero…
Harris insisted over the offseason that Cameron be on the field in a more hands-on role, as he was in LSU’s 56-27 win over Texas Tech in the bowl game.
This one Saturday didn’t have the same feel.
“By the makeup of the talent that's there, we're in pretty good shape,” Miles said of his quarterback. “It's just that maturation process.”