By TREY MONGRUE
The Big Cat Drill has been a staple at LSU Spring practices since it was instituted by head coach Les Miles back in 2010. It pits two players – usually one offensive and one defensive – against each other with the objective of being quicker and stronger than one’s opponent.
Being a contact drill, Miles has never allowed quarterbacks to participate in the Big Cat for obvious reasons.
However, Saturday’s Spring Game presented a proverbial quarterback Big Cat Drill that had sophomore Anthony Jennings and early-enrollee freshman Brandon Harris squaring off for roughly 20,000 football-thirsty fans in Tiger Stadium to see.
Going by the numbers, Harris was the victor. Seeing snaps for both the White squad (made up of mostly starters) and the Purple squad (backups and walk-ons), the freshman who just graduated from Parkway High School in December completed 11 of his 28 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns, while also adding another touchdown on the ground as part of his 77 rushing yards.
Jennings, also seeing time under center for both squads, hit on 9 of his 17 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown but also had two interceptions returned for touchdowns and had -22 yards on the ground, mostly attributed to sacks.
Using the eye test? Well, Harris was still the one that looked, for a lack of a better term, better.
While neither seemed to have much accuracy in the early going, Harris’ deep passes just seemed to draw more “oohs” and “ahs” from the crowd every time he uncorked a deep ball, while Jennings’ shorter opportunities drew more memories back to the Outback Bowl than the final drive against Arkansas.
When Harris felt pressure in the pocket (which happened quite a few times with the Purple squad), he was quick to tuck the ball and make a big play with his feet. Jennings, on the other hand, seemed hesitant and it led to him getting dragged down in the backfield on multiple occasions.
Like all freshmen, Harris was not made available for postgame interviews. Because of that, poor Jennings had a throng of microphones and tape recorders shoved in his face and fielded more questions about Harris’ performance than his.
To his credit, he seemed unfazed.
“The competition brings out the best in everybody involved,” said Jennings. “Right now, there is no starting quarterback and we’ll be competing to get that job in the Fall.”
Now, one glorified public scrimmage does not a starting quarterback make, but it does raise some questions as LSU heads in summer workouts and preseason camp.
In the time leading up to Spring practice, I refused to lend much credence to the notion of Harris coming in and taking Jennings’ job so quickly, simply because Miles’ tenure at LSU has only seen one true freshman start at quarterback. That was Jordan Jefferson for the final two games in 2008 and it happened only after Ryan Perrilloux’s dismissal and season ending injuries to both Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee.
Simply put, should Harris build off of his Spring Game momentum and beat out Jennings, it would be unprecedented. What is also unprecedented, though, is that Harris got to workout with the team during what would have been the second semester of his senior year in high school.
Usually one who is close to the vest when it comes to releasing any valuable information regarding depth chart decisions, Miles made it no secret that there will be a real competition.
“We’re going to let the competition continue and see how this thing plays out. It serves us to say that there’s some talent at that spot.”
These last two years with Zach Mettenberger laying the unequivocal claim as the starting quarterback have been relaxing, but it appears LSU is reliving 2008-2011 all over again.
Brace yourself Baton Rouge, you’re in the midst of another quarterback battle. May the biggest cat win.