It was just a glimmer, two words, the briefest peek into the post-benching psyche of one Brandon Harris, yet potentially it revealed so much.
In a reply Tuesday afternoon to former LSU and current Oklahoma State wide receiver Tyron Johnson regarding his transfer, Harris tweeted: “u smart.”
Shortly after Harris sent the reply to Johnson, he deleted the tweet. Then Harris’ Twitter account went private.
It is all supposition at this point, but with Harris, there is often little else to go on. He hasn’t spoken to media since August, well before LSU’s first two games against Wisconsin and Jacksonville State. And he has tweeted eyebrow-raising statements before and later taken them down.
This is all, of course, in the wake of Harris’ struggles in LSU’s first two games. He was unable to move the offense in a 16-14 season-opening loss to Wisconsin, throwing a wild interception that snuffed out the Tigers’ last chance to win. His struggles continued Saturday through the first quarter against Jacksonville State and resulted in his benching in favor of fellow junior Danny Etling.
Harris was engaged with Etling on the sideline over the final three quarters. But it was again eyebrow-raising to see Harris sprinting into the LSU locker room immediately after the final horn of the Tigers’ 34-13 victory against Jacksonville State, not staying out to sing the alma mater with the LSU band, as has been the tradition after wins under Les Miles.
It’s entirely possible that LSU coaches told Harris to get off the field quickly to avoid being ensnared by cameras or an on-field TV interview.
All in all, though, it continues a trend of minimal interaction with the media since spring practice, including the fact LSU didn’t bring Harris to SEC Media Days in Alabama in July. That Miles didn’t have his quarterback represent his team at an event that brings the biggest concentration of media in one place was telling about the delicate balance the coach has tried to strike in terms of Harris’ composure.
Since the Jacksonville State game ended, Miles has wisely hammered home the campaign plank that LSU will need Harris going forward. Monday at his weekly media luncheon, he flatly refused to name a starter for Saturday’s Mississippi State game, although Etling is the favorite in the way Georgia was a favorite over Nicholls State. At this point, it’s unknown whether Miles will name a starter before kickoff against the Bulldogs.
Miles and the Tigers need to keep Harris tanked up mentally for sure. LSU’s season may depend on it. There’s hardly a guarantee that Etling — who played all of 13 games at Purdue before getting his first snaps Saturday as a Tiger — will last the season in the starting role.
Remember how everyone was agog over Harris’ turn in relief of Anthony Jennings against Mississippi State two years ago? LSU went from getting routed to having Harris heave one last desperation pass toward the end zone that would have resulted in a victory.
For now, the bet is that Harris is closer to following Jennings and Johnson down the transfer road (Jennings has been an effective starting quarterback for UL-Lafayette) than he is to reclaiming LSU’s starting role. That said, there are plenty of twists and turns remaining for this season.
There was no comment from LSU as of Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, we’re left to read the tea leaves that Harris has dropped in his wake. Like the list of those he follows on Twitter, a list that includes a wide cross section of teammates and LSU assistant coaches, media types, Donald Trump and Leonardo DiCaprio.
It also includes college football coaches like Houston’s Tom Herman, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, and TCU head coach Gary Patterson and offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie.
Miles' account, @LSUCoachMiles, is not on the list.