Outback Blog 12-18

Iowa will face a true freshman quarterback in the Outback Bowl. Hawkeye Insider familiarizes you with LSU's young signal caller.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Each Sunday during the season, I begin researching Iowa's next opponent. Save the bye weeks, I surf the internet for stories, statistics and anything else I can find to help me learn what's coming up for the Hawkeyes.

Bowl season brings along a different animal. A lot of time separates the announcement and the game. Information trickles out.

Well, it's time to start digging in. We're two weeks from the Outback Bowl matchup with LSU.

I figured while I was doing that, I would share with you guys what I find, at least the most interesting items. I'm going to collect them here in blog form.

To me, one of the most interesting angles in this story is LSU starting a backup quarterback. True freshman Anthony Jennings steps in for senior Zach Mettenberger, who tore his ACL in the Tigers regular-season finale against Arkansas.

LSU Coach Les Miles is building his new starter's confidence with words of encouragement in the media.

"There's not going to be any pieces of what we do that he won't be able to do," Mile told the The Advertiser of Lafayette (La.) of Jennings.

That Jennings served as the No. 2 signal caller in his first fall on campus tells us a lot about his ability. He arrived in Baton Rouge from Marietta (GA) High, where he was Scout.com's 28th-ranked quarterback in the country for 2013. He chose the Tigers ahead of reported scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Nebraska and Wisconsin, to name a few.

Jennings enrolled at LSU last January after graduating early from high school. It prepared the 6-foot-2, 211-pounder for what came this summer when camp broke.

"It gave me a leg-up knowing some of the playbook early, getting the grasp of it," Jennings told TigersSportsDigest.com in August. "Also, (it was important) just getting the hang of college life because I'm eight hours away from home. That was what I learned in spring, how to balance football and also school."

LSU Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron described his freshman as a pocket-mobile quarterback.

"(It) means you can move in and out of the pocket , make guys miss when you need to and also throw the ball with the best of them in the nation," Jennings told TigersSportsDigest.com. "I think that's a very accurate description of me."

Jennings showed off his pocket-mobile ability in replacing Mettenberger during the Arkansas game. He drove the No. 14 Tigers 99 yards for the winning score with 1:15 on the clock. He capped the march with a 49-yard touchdown pass.

"I was calm and relaxed because I knew my teammates around me had my back," Jennings said in an ESPN.com story. "I'll always remember this because this is my first significant time playing and I executed. I couldn't do it by myself, obviously."

Jennings completed 4 of 7 passes for 76 yards and one score. He rushed three times for 26 yards, including a tote of 21.

The freshman saw action in eight games this season. He had thrown three total passes before the Arkansas contest.

Iowa Defensive Coordinator Phil Parker and the rest of the staff on that side of the ball found ways to frustrate quarterbacks, especially later in the year. They've been given extra time to prepare for an inexperienced signal caller and devise looks to confuse him.

A key could be the Hawkeyes getting to Jennings early. He's confident now but rattling him could squeeze some of it out.

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