Dig Baton Rouge

Fighting It Out

By Trey Mongrue

Cam Cameron’s mindset is simple when it comes to the makeup of LSU’s quarterback depth chart – be ready to play and lead the team to victory.

“If you step on the field in an LSU uniform to play quarterback, you are expected to play at a high level,” the second year offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach explained. “There is no such thing as a backup here.”

Be that as it may, Cameron, along with head coach Les Miles, has a rather important decision to make in the weeks leading up to the Tigers’ 2014 season opener. Namely, who will take the first snap under center when LSU takes on Wisconsin?

With a week of practice in the books, sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris have not made the answer clear just yet.

“It’s intense because we both want to start,” said Jennings. “We’re both just trying to get better each day and that’s all that we can ask of ourselves.”

“The quarterbacks are really competing and as they do that, they continue to get better,” said Miles. “We have to find a quarterback that can execute the offense extremely well and I think we’ll do that.”

One thing is for certain, both Jennings and Harris want to start and it is making for quite the intense atmosphere on the fields of the Charles McClendon Practice Facility.

“It’s intense because we both want to start,” said Jennings. “We’re both just trying to get better each day and that’s all that we can ask of ourselves.”

From Harris’ point of view, the battle is too close to call because he sees a lot himself in Jennings.

“I couldn’t tell you [the differences],” Harris said. “Anthony is a guy who can run just like I can run and can throw just like I can throw.”

If Jennings ultimately wins the job, it would make sense.

He has a year of experience on Harris and was the one who rode into Tiger Stadium on a white horse to save LSU from an embarrassing loss to Arkansas after a knee injury ended Zach Mettenberger’s collegiate career a game too early.

That game against Arkansas and the subsequent start in the Outback Bowl against Iowa has Jennings feeling much more confident heading into the season than he would be had he not played a down in 2013.

But at the same time, he doesn’t think he deserves the starting job on merit alone.

“The coaches have to decide that,” Jennings said of being named the starter because of experience. “If they think that’s an advantage for me, cool, but I still have to work every day because any day, anything can happen.”

Once viewed as LSU’s unquestioned successor to Mettenberger, Jennings welcomes all of the pressure that comes with the competition.

“This is what happens when you come here to LSU, we recruit players that come in to get your spot,” he said. “It makes me better as a person and a player just to know that somebody is pushing me.”

If Harris gets the nod, while he would become the first true freshman quarterback to open a season under Miles, it would not be the first time that Cameron went with fresh blood.

As the head coach of Indiana in 1998, Cameron tabbed true freshman – and future NFL receiver – Antwaan Randle El to be the Hoosiers starting quarterback.

Also helping Harris’ case is that he was an early enrollee after graduating a semester early from Parkway High School, which allowed him to participate in LSU’s spring practices last March. During that period, Harris was able to learn the ropes college football, allowing him to come into fall camp without his head spinning.

“You don’t realize how much football you don’t know until you come to a school like this,” explained Harris who threw for 195 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another in LSU’s Spring Game.

“In high school, you are the best player on the entire field and you are able to take improper footwork and make up for everything with your arm. At this level, we have an All-American defense and those guys are going to make you pay with your late footwork or anything like that.”

Combatants on the field, Jennings and Harris are still getting to know each other off the field.

They haven’t reached best friends status just yet. Through it all, they are still a pair of 19-year-old kids getting used to college life.

“Our relationship is cool,” said Jennings. “I don’t hang out with him as much as I do with others on the team, but we get together and play games and stuff.”

“When I got here, I didn’t know Anthony,” added Harris. “We’re continuing to build a relationship.”

The crux of that budding relationship is that both seem willing to put the success of LSU ahead of their brewing quarterback battle.

The “team first mentality” that Miles and Cameron have instilled is one of the things that attracted Harris to LSU. If he is not named the starter, he knows that he still has a role on the team.

“When everybody signs on the dotted line to come to a school like this, they think that they’re the missing piece,” said Harris. “In reality, everybody is a piece to the puzzle in trying to win a national championship.”

 

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