BATON ROUGE, La. -- Out of all the good things Cam Cameron saw from his LSU offense this spring, he was most pleased by what his group desperately needed: consistency.
“We didn’t have a lot of peaks and valleys, even within the practices,” Cameron, LSU’s offensive coordinator, said after Saturday’s spring game. “Maybe a little blip on the radar screen a little bit, but we were actually pretty consistent: solid practices every day, our scrimmages were solid, especially the first unit. We got banged up so our second unit was a lot of young players and a lot of walk-ons, but the starting group really did a nice job of having 15 positive, consistent scrimmages and practices.”
That consistency starts at the all-important quarterback position. After two consecutive underachieving seasons at quarterback with Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris at the helm, Cameron said Harris’ spring performance continued the progress he made in a 302-yard effort (261 passing, 41 receiving) in the Tigers’ bowl victory over Texas Tech.
Coach Les Miles hinted a week before the Tigers’ spring game that Harris had asserted himself as the starting quarterback, and Cameron seemed to agree with that assessment after Harris completed 11 of 15 passes for 106 yards Saturday.
“I think he asserted himself at times last year, but as we know it’s all about consistency and stacking great performances one on top of the other -- especially in this conference and our half of the conference. So consistency’s what we’re looking for,” Cameron said. “I think he’s growing, he’s learning. Again, he’s getting a lot of help from all of us, from Danny [Etling], we’re all working together and I’m really pleased with the direction he’s headed.”
Should Harris hold off Etling for the starting job this fall, it will be the first time in Cameron’s four seasons at LSU that he will have worked with the same starting quarterback for two straight years. Continuity is extremely valuable, as is Harris’ status as an upperclassman who has experienced the ups and downs of facing SEC opposition over his first two seasons.
“How about he will go into his second summer as the guy that runs the summer workouts?” Miles said. “He’s going to make improvement, he’ll make strides really all summer long and then into what would be his second two-a-days as the starter. So he’s going to finally go into a season having rehearsed this all once before, which is really going to be comfortable for him.”
LSU played it close to the vest throughout Saturday’s game, but Harris handled his business admirably when he was on the field. He led four drives and came away with points three times (two touchdowns and a field goal). On his three possessions against the starting defense, Harris came away with 10 points.
It’s risky to read too much into a spring-game performance -- especially since officials immediately whistled plays dead as soon as a defender laid a hand on the offensive player -- but it was a solid outing for the junior quarterback.
“I’m tough on grading myself, but overall I thought I did a good job of understanding,” Harris said. “It’s difficult when you’ve got a yellow jersey on. I tried to advocate for myself to be able to be live during the scrimmage because it’s not realistic. A guy comes near you and some of our D-linemen are like, ‘I got him. That’s a sack,’ but that’s part of it.
“But I thought we did a good job. I’m really, really pleased with how we’re coming out of the scrimmage. I thought we did some great things. We made some great strides from obviously this last spring into this spring.”
That’s exactly what Miles and Cameron want to see.
Harris faded down the stretch last season after performing well in the first several conference games. He does not have to be a Heisman Trophy contender -- that’s Leonard Fournette's job -- for an LSU team with 18 starters returning to contend for an SEC title this fall. He and the receivers simply need to be more consistent in taking pressure off Fournette and the running game, and this LSU offense could be truly dangerous.
Miles said it was moving in the right direction at the end of spring practice.
“I just know that [this spring] the quarterbacks were always throwing for percentages higher than they did a year ago,” Miles said. “That to me is two things: One, our receiving corps took a responsibility to catch the ball, and two, that quarterback room is just better. I think Danny coming in with the experience that he has really allows him to learn quicker. But Brandon, again, is more experienced, more poised and just a little bit more comfortable.”