LSU coach Les Miles announced to a group of reporters Monday that freshman Brandon Harris would start this weekend.
He didn’t tell many others.
Players — including Harris — didn’t know the 15th-ranked Tigers (4-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) were planning to start the rookie at No. 5 Auburn (4-0, 1-0) until Miles told reporters or well after.
“I didn’t really find out until we got out at practice and he was running with the (No.) 1s,” receiver Travin Dural said.
A handful of players, like Dural, found out at Monday’s practice. Players said Harris and others learned of the news earlier in the day when media reports surfaced online, but there was no in-house announcement.
Why? Third-string quarterback Brad Kragthorpe has the answer.
“A lot of people want to put a lot of speculation into it,” said Kragthorpe, a mentor to Harris. “Both of those guys knew coming into the season that both were going to play a significant amount of time.
“I didn’t know he’d been named the starter until someone told me after our workouts today that it was up on ESPN,” Kragthorpe continues. “It wasn’t a huge deal around here. Both play so much. Who walks out there for the first snap ... it’s a title, I guess.”
Dural called Monday “a normal day, nothing different,” but he admits that Harris was bouncing around more at practice.
“He’s more into it than he was (the) past couple of weeks,” the sophomore said. “You could tell he was a little more pumped up.”
Anthony Jennings took Monday’s news OK, and teammates are rallying around him, players said.
“His mood was pretty straight,” Dural said. “Came out to (Monday) practice his normal self — smiling, throwing the ball around. I wouldn’t say he’s down or letting (the decision) affect him.”
LSU quarterbacks, aside from some postgame talks, are not allowed to speak with reporters.
Jennings started LSU’s first five games. He’s completed 50.6 of his passes for 734 yards with five touchdown passes and three interceptions.
He was yanked for Harris early in the second quarter of the 63-7 win over New Mexico State and never returned to the game — a telling sign. Still, Miles preached to reporters Monday that LSU would need both quarterbacks the rest of the season.
Running back Terrence Magee talked to Jennings on Monday.
“I told him to keep his head up and stay focused and just keep coming to work because at any moment, Brandon can go down and then he’s the guy again,” Magee said.
Said safety Jalen Mills: “I just told him to stay focused. I went to Ant (Anthony) and told him the same thing: ‘Keep working hard; the harder you work, it’ll eventually show.’ ”
Fans booed Jennings multiple times as he captained a sluggish LSU offense on the first seven drives of the game last weekend. Miles has spoken with the QB about it.
“I’ve described people that have no say in the game really are trying to get into the game with their reaction,” the coach said. “I told him that he need not concern himself with that.”
Harris chided fans after the game for the boos and said Jennings has been “very supportive” of him.
Miles can win his 100th game at LSU if his team upsets Auburn, an eight-point favorite for Saturday’s game.
Miles is looking to become just the second coach in school history to win 100 games. Charles McClendon won 137 games in his 18 years. Miles is in his 10th season.
“I have given virtually not a second’s thought on that piece,” the coach said Monday. “I think there have been lots of wonderful opportunities for me to have success here at LSU, based on the quality of players and the assistant coaches, so I’ve given little thought to that. I really don’t want to talk about it any further.”
Dural ranks fourth in school history with 534 yards through five games. He leads the SEC in yards per catch with a 25.4 average. He remains No. 1 in the nation in yards per catch for players with 20 or more receptions. ... This is the first time LSU is ranked outside the AP top 10 when facing Auburn since 2001. LSU has won 5 of 7 all-time meetings against top-10 AU teams.
Sheldon Mickles contributed to this report.