Brandon Harris has enough to deal with.
He’s got enough to worry about. He hears enough from fans — some even threatening him. He doesn’t need Derrius Guice hovering over him.
“I don’t want to be the one all in his ear,” Guice said Monday. “I know he’s getting it from everybody.”
Guice did, however, deliver to Harris a message over the past few days, some of the toughest of the quarterback’s career: “I’ve got your back regardless of all of this,” he said he told Harris.
Harris hasn’t officially lost the starting quarterback job at LSU. Les Miles declined to name a starting quarterback Monday. But the coach, now twice in three days, indicated that Etling’s the man.
What’s that mean for Harris?
“Certainly, you can’t get down over something,” tight end Colin Jeter said. “Football is already a mental sport. I think Brandon will be fine. He’s going to come back to work (Monday), just like he’s always done, and we’re going to get ready for Mississippi State.”
The 20th-ranked Tigers (1-1) host the Bulldogs (1-1) on Saturday at Tiger Stadium in what could be Etling’s first start since his days at Purdue two years ago.
At his weekly news conference Monday, Miles said he would withhold naming a starter until he spoke to his team. Cornerback Tre’Davious White said Monday night that the team has not discussed the quarterback situation.
Etling replaced Harris after he struggled to a 1-for-4 mark in the Tigers' first two series against Jacksonville State. Etling, an Indiana native and former Purdue quarterback, led LSU on three straight touchdowns drives, sparking the offense by completing six of his first eight passes.
Many believe Etling won the job with his second-quarter outburst, and Miles has, maybe, shown his hand twice since Saturday's game, hinting that Etling could start against the Bulldogs.
Asked about Harris’ removal, Miles said on Monday, “We would like to think that a respite from the starting quarterback, and the pressures thereof, might allow him to take a deep breath and step forward and compete. We saw it as a positive.”
In his post-game news conference Saturday, Miles said he wasn’t sure Harris will get a chance to get comfortable on the field.
“I don’t know that that will happen,” he said. “Depends on how this quarterback position plays out.”
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LSU players are back in a familiar spot, being asked about a quarterbacks battle. The Tigers dealt with the same, between Harris and Anthony Jennings, for much of the 2014 season and during spring and preseason camp of 2015.
“I’m going to support the both of them,” Jeter said. “No one but us knows the work they put in over the spring and summer, all of the extra reps they’ve put in. I love them both to death. Whoever’s in, I’m behind.”
“You just do your job and let that stuff play out,” center Ethan Pocic said. “I know Brandon and Danny … they’re both competitors. Both are going to play well. I need to work with both. If we have to play both, that’s fine.”
Miles indicated that both could play — or, at least, LSU needs both of them to be ready to play. He would not reveal how the two will split first-string snaps this week in practice.
“We’ll need both guys to play in every game," he said. “We’re not turning our back in any way to competition at that position.”
LSU fans won't be the only ones wearing gold Saturday.
Miles said Etling's insertion into the game Saturday wasn't planned or scripted, and the coach expected Harris to have a better start. Like many teams, LSU “scripts and rehearses” the first several offensive plays it plans to run in the upcoming game. They practice the plays during a walk-through Friday.
Harris misfired on three of his four passes, leading Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to hook a player who was, at one point, 7-1 as a starter for the Tigers. That record is now 10-5, and that’s counting the win against Jacksonville State.
So there might be a new guy back there for the first time since December of 2014? So what, players say.
“How I look at it, we’ve got the same mission every time. It could be new receivers, new linemen, new quarterback or new backs. Still got the same mission,” Guice said. “Still got to execute. Still got to do what’s called of you by coach Cam and coach Miles.
“I don’t see a difference between Danny and Brandon,” Guice continued. “I really don’t. To me, Brandon is still on the field, ya know what I mean? It’s not really a difference.”
Talk to receivers and they’ll tell you about the differences. Each throws a different ball with a different delivery.
Harris guns passes, even short and intermediate ones, using a strong, powerful arm to fire the ball into window, its laces spinning wildly. Etling’s passes are softer.
“They’re two different deliveries,” Jeter said.
They’re different guys in general. Harris is a quarterback from a shotgun-based spread system in high school, a guy who seems more comfortable on the run and, at times, antsy in the pocket. Etling is a pure pocket passer, someone poised in the pocket and understanding of his progressions.
He can get rowdy, too, of course. Cameron, in a phone call from the booth to the sideline, told Etling that he'd play to start LSU's third series. He immediately ran down the bench in which offensive players — running backs, offensive linemen and then receivers — were seated.
He delivered high-fives and back-pats.
"That was my first inclination when he started coming down the offensive bench," fullback J.D. Moore said. "I was like, ‘Well, Danny’s real excited.’ Ya know? I was like, ‘Hey, maybe, he’s going in the game.’ Sure enough, he was."