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9/30/14 5:30 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

The hot topic of discussion among Tiger Fans is that Coach Les Miles has named freshmen quarterback Brandon Harris as the starter for this week’s battle at Auburn.  According to Miles, the decision was made after watching film and consulting with offensive coaches, and it wasn’t a difficult decision. 

When Harris starts this Saturday, it will be the earliest a true freshman has started a game as an LSU quarterback since Jamie Howard started LSU's fourth game in 1992, which resulted in a 17-14 loss to Colorado State. It probably goes without saying, but I strongly support the decision to start Harris, and I think Miles did the right thing in announcing it now rather than later. There are some who will question why Miles would publicly announce this on a Monday instead of making Auburn guess, but the reality is that Auburn would have schemed for Harris regardless, and LSU needs to be focusing on a game plan that will best utilize Harris’ talents. The early announcement should also help ease any potential tension brought about by the would-be “quarterback controversy” and keep the team focused. 

The big announcement came yesterday during coach Miles’ weekly press luncheon, and you can read the full transcript of the conference here. But for those of you who want the quick version, here are the key points made:

• After Miles said Harris will start, he added that they are going to need both quarterbacks and that Anthony Jennings will continue to compete.

• When asked what Miles saw in the film to reaffirm what he saw of Harris in the game, one of the things Miles mentioned was, “There is some ‘ad‑lib’ to his game that's very, very positive, and he's a guy that is really fast and a guy that can really throw the ball.  You put him in a quality position to extend a play, some good things can happen.” Harris demonstrated this on the bad-snap busted play that he turned into a touchdown run. 

• When asked about whether Harris is comfortable in the shotgun formation, Miles said Harris is more comfortable under center than he’s ever been and he’s got equal confidence in the shotgun.

• When asked about the big 80-yard touchdown play the defense gave up against NMSU, Miles said, “The linebacker should have fallen back in that seam and made that tackle.  It was a pretty effective play call.  Just, again, a mistake, based on not getting the call or based on the player not understanding the call, but we felt like we made improvement in that on the week.”

• When asked about the play of Kendell Beckwith, Miles said he expects him to play “even a further role at Auburn.”

• When asked whether DTs Quentin Thomas and Frank Herron would be back this week, Miles said, “Quentin Thomas, I'm not certain; Frank Herron, more likely.”

The other big news to surface yesterday is that Dwayne Thomas reportedly suffered a torn ACL and will likely be out for the season. This has not been officially confirmed by LSU, but the Advocate reported the news. During the press conference, Miles was asked who would play in Thomas’ nickel spot if he was out. Miles said he’s not ready to name anyone definitively, but did mention freshmen Jamal Adams and Ed Paris. 

When the Tigers take on Auburn Saturday night in Jordan Hare Stadium, Coach Miles will be going for his 100th win as LSU’s head coach. He’ll also be looking to avoid going 0-2 in SEC play for the first time in his tenure as the Tigers coach. Considering the strength of the 5th ranked Auburn Tigers, these will be very hard objectives to accomplish, but I feel better than at any point this season about LSU pulling off the upset after seeing how the offense clicked with Harris at the helm against Mississippi State and New Mexico State. I think LSU will put up some points, but the big question is whether LSU’s defensive middle can slow down Auburn’s high-powered offense led by Nick Marshall. Look for more on that game and how the two teams compare in subsequent reports later this week. 

A few tid-bits in closing: 

• Here's this week's Tigers in the NFL update provided by LSUSports.net.

• Here’s a video interview of LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri by Tiger TV. At about the 3:14 mark he’s asked about Nick Marshall’s departure and says he was absolutely shocked by the news.

• Lastly, I’ve updated our Ticket Exchange (several Auburn tickets and even a few for Alabama), as well our LSU Football Depth Chart.

 

 

 

9/29/14 5:40 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

After smashing New Mexico State by a score of 63-7 (which, incidentally, is the same score in LSU’s win the one and only other time they played NMS in 1996), the Tigers moved up to No. 15 in the AP and Coaches’ polls. A total of eight SEC teams made the top-25 including Alabama (3/1), Auburn (5/5), Texas A&M (6/7), Ole Miss (11/11), Georgia (12/12), Mississippi State (14/12), LSU (15/15), and Missouri (24/NA).  The Tigers will have a chance to make a huge jump in the polls and redefine their season this Saturday when they hit the road to play 5th ranked Auburn on Saturday night at 6 p.m. in a game that will be televised by ESPN. We’ll have much more on that huge contest in subsequent reports, but first let’s take a look back at Saturday’s win with our Monday Morning Rewind. 

Monday Morning Rewind

It’s hard to draw a lot of conclusions from Saturday’s game considering the opponent, but we did see a lot of positives in the game. Obviously, the biggest positive was the play of quarterback Brandon Harris, who led the offense to a score on all seven of his possessions. Harris finished the game with 11-of-14 passing, 178 passing yards and five total touchdowns, but did he do enough to earn the starting job? That’s the four-million-dollar question, and really I understand why Coach Miles refused to answer it right away. If Miles does in fact plan on starting Harris (and I hope he does), immediately announcing it post-game would have been another tough blow to the confidence of Anthony Jennings, and, considering LSU’s depth at quarterback, Miles is right in saying that Jennings will be needed throughout the season.  

Let’s take a deeper look into both quarterback’s performances. 

• Anthony Jennings started the game and struggled early, turning the ball over three times. The Tigers opened the game with a turnover, as Jennings fumbled the ball out of the pistol set on LSU’s first offensive possession. On the next offensive possession, the Tigers decided to go to their more conventional offense and a three-and-out resulted after running two straight plays out of the I-formation. Dillon Gordon allowed a sack, over setting his feet on the outside and getting beat to the inside. The Tigers kept it conservative and were forced to punt. In Jennings’ third offensive series, the Tigers came out in the shotgun set and looked to pass on first down. Jennings climbed the pocket and launched an ill-advised pass into traffic and was picked off by New Mexico State. On the interception, tight end Colin Jeter was breaking open, but to be fair to Jennings, the pressure in the backfield rushed his throw. Normally, Jennings would take a sack there, but perhaps the mental pressure attached to the quarterback competition led him to force it. Jennings later threw another interception on a pass out of the I-formation which resulted from a miscommunication with Malachi Dupre. After that play, Brad Kragthorpe immediately motioned to Jennings that he was supposed to throw it inside, rather than the outside. On Jennings’ lone scoring drive, the Tigers ran the read-option out of the shotgun. The Tigers ran the ball three out of the four plays on that drive, which resulted in Terrence Magee scoring from 11 yards out. It’s worth noting the Tigers had only four passes compared to 14 rushes with 12 minutes left in the second quarter. Harris came in with just under 10 minutes left to play in the second quarter.

• Harris’ first drive was out of the I-formation and relied heavily on the run. In fact, Harris only threw the ball once in the 11-play drive. I was a little surprised to see LSU intent on running the ball against a smaller bunch instead of allowing the quarterbacks to pass frequently and get more experience before Auburn, like Nick Saban did with Alabama quarterback Blake Sims against Southern Miss earlier this season, but I can only assume that Coach Miles’ objective was to secure a comfortable lead first and take some pressure off the signal callers. After obtaining a 21-0 lead, the Tigers decided to open it up more, and that’s when Harris showed his ability. Harris completed a 22-yard pass to Travin Dural before finding Dupre for a 27-yard touchdown. So far this season, it’s easy to see Harris has the most chemistry with Dupre. On the touchdown pass, Harris rolled out of the pocket and kept his eyes downfield, lining a shot where only Dupre could catch it. 

• An observation I’ve noticed in studying Harris is that he seems most efficient when rolling out of the pocket, as opposed to running the ball and operating within a read-option-based offense. Harris’ athleticism suggests that he would be able to run the read-option best, but in actuality, Harris has proved that he’s better rolling out of the pocket and making plays in that fashion. In fact, Harris could play a role similar to the one Zach Mettenberger had within the offense last year – as a gunslinger with an NFL-caliber arm, who can operate out of the I-formation and in regular shotgun and pistol sets. Overall, Mettenberger was known for his accuracy, while Harris has made a name for himself with his athleticism. Against New Mexico State, Harris proved he could be accurate, as well. Harris’ outstanding performance lifted the Tigers in the win, and earned Harris the No. 1 spot in this week’s National Total QB Rating. With Jennings only getting five passing reps and struggling against a New Mexico State defense, Les Miles’ hand is almost forced to start Harris against Auburn next week. 

•  One more quick note about the offense before briefly going over the defense, Darrell Williams and Terrence Magee played outstandingly in the win, but were obviously overshadowed by the quarterback storyline. Williams keeps improving and is really finishing his runs and falling forward for extra yards, while Magee put in his most impressive performance of the 2014 season, showcasing a burst at the second level against an inferior New Mexico State defense. But the running back who impressed the most was Leonard Fournette who ran for his first 100-yard game (122 yards on 18 carries) and added 33 yards on a pass reception. It’s becoming more obvious with each game that Fournette is at his best when working from a one-back set. 

•  Now, moving over to defense, The Tigers’ defensive tackles, which will be a huge factor in next week’s game against Auburn, had some bright spots. I was pleased to see Greg Gilmore get on the field and make a play, shedding a block and tackling a running back at the line of scrimmage. Christian LaCouture was solid, Lewis Neal gained some valuable playing time, and though Davon Godchaux whiffed on a few tackles, he still made a few plays at the line of scrimmage. Maquedius Bain, M.J. Patterson, Sione Teuhema and Justin Maclin all got some playing time on the defensive line as well. Tashawn Bower, who took the blame for New Mexico State’s lone touchdown, played extremely well besides the technique miscue. Bower has been overshadowed, but every time I watch him on tape, I’m impressed by his knack for the football. He just has to learn to operate in the confines of John Chavis’ defense and not play hero. Hopefully, he learned that lesson last night. It’s worth noting that on that 79-yard scoring play, it appeared that DJ Welter had an opportunity to make the stop but just couldn’t get over fast enough. But really, other than that one big play, the defense looked much improved and there weren’t any obvious miscommunications or miscues like in the previous week.

•  One more related note that I mentioned yesterday but was kind of buried within another bullet point is the news on DT Frank Herron’s injury. Herron didn’t dress out Saturday, and according to reports this is due to him suffering an undisclosed off-the-field injury. That’s just the latest in a string of bad news related to LSU’s defensive tackles since the preseason. LSU has already had to deal with injuries to Quentin Thomas, Herron, and Trey Lealaimatafao, plus the eligibility issues surrounding Travonte Valentine. At this point it is unclear whether Thomas and Herron will be available for this Saturday’s game at Auburn. 

•  The biggest negative to arise from the game involved Dwayne Thomas’ injury. Thomas is a playmaking defensive back who will be sorely missed if he can’t get back into the lineup. Jamal Adams took the place of Thomas in the Mustang formation and created pressure in the backfield on the play after Thomas’ injury. Adams is another one of those talented freshman who really dazzles. So far this season, Adams has closed in on defenders really quickly, and in Saturday’s game he made multiple tackles from his safety position in the first quarter alone.

*  The biggest storyline of the night, outside of the quarterback duel, was the outstanding play of several freshmen, and that has me excited for the future of LSU football. Led by Harris, Fournette, Williams, Dupre, Trey Quinn and Adams, this elite bunch continues to grow and provide excitement for the Tiger fanbase.

Before closing out for the day, I want to announce that we’ve processed last week’s picks in our LA Prep Football Pickem Contest and our Week 4 winner is Jerry Chauvin who correctly picked 120 of 143 games. Mr Chauvin, please contact me to let me know about your connection to LA Prep Football and how you go about making your picks so I can give you more of an introduction here. Voting for this week’s games is now open and hope many of you will decide to join in the action. After four weeks of voting, the leader in the overall competition (all weeks) is Mr. Michael Janis (CoachMJ) who is an assistant coach at Springfield High School.

Lastly, I’d like to point out that I’ll be updating our Ticket Exchange page later this morning.

Reader Comment: Hey Scott, here is a great read on LSU quarterback Brad Kragthorpe's impact on the team even though he is the 3rd string quarterback.

9/28/14 1:03 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

In a game that was just was the doctor ordered for LSU, the Tigers came away with a 63-7 win over New Mexico State, and quarterback Brandon Harris made an overwhelmingly convincing case that he should be LSU’s quarterback. The Tigers started out very sluggishly and turned the ball over four times in the first quarter, but my how things changed when Harris entered the game in place of starting quarterback Anthony Jennings. Harris quickly picked up where he left off against Mississippi State, led the Tigers to seven straight touchdown drives, and ended the night 11-of-14 passing for 173 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 36 yards and two touchdowns. What’s particularly remarkable is that nine of Harris’ last 10 drives have resulted in touchdowns, and the only one that didn’t was the Hail Mary attempt at the end of the MSU game. If Harris hasn’t yet done enough to earn the starting job against Auburn next week, I just don’t know what it would take.

I’m going to keep today’s update relatively short and just give you a few tid-bits, stats and video links, and then we’ll take a closer look at the game in Monday’s report. Here we go…

• Leonard Fournette had a big night and led the team in rushing with 122 yards and two TDs on 18 carries. Terrence Magee was next with 62 yards and a TD on eight carries, and Darrell Williams added 59 yards on 10 carries. Kenny Hilliard, who fumbled in the first quarter and was benched until late in the third quarter, ended the night with 53 yards on seven carries.

• Malachi Dupre led all receivers with 54 yards and one TD on three receptions, while Trey Quinn was a close second with 46 yards on three receptions. Quinn was also used in the punt return game and demonstrated great ball skills.

• Kwon Alexander and DJ Welter led the team in tackles with eight each, but Welter was burned on the 79-yard scoring run by New Mexico State. Kendell Beckwith logged at least as much time as Welter at middle linebacker and looked very good. Beckwith ended the night with four tackles and came away with a big interception which he returned 29 yards for a touchdown.

• As expected, LSU’s offensive line looked much better against NMS’s smallish defensive front, but its real test will come next week at Auburn. It was nice to see Andy Dodd and KJ Malone get playing time in the game and perform well.

• As for the defensive line, I was interested in seeing how many defensive tackles would see action in the game, and if my count is correct it was six. Christian LaCouture and Davon Godchaux started, and the first reserve off the bench was Lewis Neal, as expected. I was pleased to see that Maquediuos Bain, Greg Gilmore and Mickey Johnson also all saw action late in the game. It’s been a bit of a mystery as to why Frank Herron hasn’t been playing after he received such high praise in the preseason, but yesterday Ross Delanger of the Advocate reported that Herron was injured in an off-the-field incident and that his status for the rest of the season is uncertain.

• LSU’s secondary looked very good, and I was especially impressed with Rickey Jefferson and Jamal Adams. Unfortunately, cornerback/nickleback Dwayne Thomas suffered an apparent knee injury and left the game on crutches. At this time I have no update on the status of his injury.

• Oh, and in case any of you were wondering who the No. 86 was that you saw on a couple of nice running plays, that was walk-on wide receiver Miguel James of Jewel Sumner High School in Kentwood. In the third quarter he lined up in the backfield and took a handoff for a 19-yard gain, leading me (and others around me) to scramble for the roster sheet to identify the mystery player.

Below are a few stats from the game, and here are LSU’s video highlights. And for those of you interested, I’ve added a YouTube video of Coach Miles’ post-game press conference by BayouBengalsInsider to our Media Gallery as well.

In closing, I’d like to thank author Ces Guerra (Gumbo for the Tiger Soul) for having me and my father-in-law as his guests in the South End Zone Stadium Club last night. We had a great time and enjoyed not only the wonderful food and atmosphere, but also the company.

 

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