HOOVER, Ala. — Les Miles probably didn’t expect the question.
“Why,” the radio host asked, “didn’t you bring Brandon Harris to SEC media days?”
A few seconds of silence followed.
“Leonard Fournette. Ethan Pocic. Tre’Davious White,” LSU's football coach said, naming the three players the Tigers brought to media days during their designated day Thursday.
“That’s why,” he told SiriusXM Radio.
LSU’s four-hour window at media days centered on the shooting of Alton Sterling and subsequent protests in Baton Rouge.
But Miles and his players couldn’t completely shake free of the cloud that has hung over the program for the previous two seasons: the quarterback issue.
“Everybody’s asking me about Brandon,” running back Leonard Fournette said as he was surrounded by more than 40 reporters. “I think he’s going to do a marvelous job this year, guys.”
Four quarterbacks in the SEC return for 2016 after a full year of starting last season: Harris, Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs, Georgia’s Greyson Lambert and Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly. Dobbs and Kelly were at media days; Lambert, who was not, is locked in a four-player quarterback competition. Texas A&M brought quarterback Trevor Knight, a transfer from Oklahoma who hasn’t played a down for the Aggies.
Why no Harris?
“We didn’t need to burden (Harris) with that,” Miles said before telling the radio hosts that his quarterback will do his talking on the field — not off it, on the league’s brightest stage at this annual preseason event.
Harris’ absence from media days didn’t slow the questions regarding the Tigers passing game and its quarterback struggles over the past two seasons.
The Tigers haven’t passed for at least 300 yards in a win in the past two years. They’ve thrown for 300-plus yards just twice (losses to Mississippi State and Ole Miss) in those 25 games quarterbacked by Anthony Jennings and Harris.
Harris last season didn’t crack the 50 percent mark for completion percentage in four games. He passed for fewer than 100 yards in four games. Erratic and inconsistent — that’s how offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s passing game has looked since Zach Mettenberger left after 2013.
THIBODAUX – Brandon Harris has watched enough tape to know that he wasn’t tough enough durin…
Miles has made it clear that Harris is the guy, despite the struggles. The coach made the most revealing statement of the spring regarding the quarterback competition between Harris and Purdue transfer Danny Etling after the last spring scrimmage. Of Harris, he said, "He’s ready to be the quarterback."
Harris might not have been at media day, but he is on the cover of the team’s media guide.
“I can tell you this,” Miles started when asked about that. “We’re hopeful that he’s in a position now that he can turn over reins of leadership maybe a little bit more effectively.”
Players say that’s happening. Fournette on Thursday said he’s “ready to see the new Harris when Sept. 3 comes.” The running back said Harris has a “new swag.”
“He’s talking, taking over practices,” Fournette said.
“From freshman to sophomore, from sophomore to junior year, he keeps progressing, and that’s all we ask him to do,” Pocic said. “(He’s) more fluent with receivers, knows everything that’s going on with the protections. He’s the man now. He’s got everything.”
“We’re coming together, man,” Harris said last month at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux. “We’re gelling at the right moment. We understand the team we can be if we just stay the course.”
THIBODAUX — After LSU’s win over Florida last season, its quarterback, Brandon Harris, criti…
For many, Harris’ progression is a see-it-to-believe-it type of thing. Phil Savage, executive director of the Senior Bowl, voiced his concerns regarding Harris’ inconsistent accuracy on the same satellite radio show that Miles visited during media days. Savage watched Harris throw at the Manning camp last month.
He can spin the ball like no other, Savage admitted, but it’s not always accurate.
At the Manning camp, Harris told reporters he "feels like" he has "the best arm in college football.” For a guy who completed 53 percent of his passes last season, that created buzz.
For Fournette and others, well, they just smiled.
“If your quarterback’s not confident, you’re not going to follow,” Fournette said. “I’m ready to see the new Brandon Harris when September 3 comes.”