Here are some of the finer points from the LSU offense during Saturday's go inside Tiger Stadium.
- Harris out-played Jennings, but coaches say it's one piece of puzzle
The statistics tell the story well enough by themselves. Early enrollee Brandon Harris completed 11-of-28 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns versus no interceptions while rising sophomore Anthony Jennings went 9-of-17 for 157 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, both returned for six. Then, on the ground, Harris added 77 yards and a touchdown on six carries while Jennings was more often than not going in reverse, losing 22 yards on six carries (most of these sacks, and most of those by Danielle Hunter).
Seeing the way the two played told the rest of the story. Jennings, much like in the Outback Bowl, struggled with knowing when to turn the ball loose and when to tuck it and run. That indecision in the face of a pass rush contributed to both pick-sixes (to linebackers in the flats) and a number of the sacks Jennings took. Harris, on the other hand, sifted comfortably through the pocket and ran when he needed to while also throwing the better deep ball of the two. Jennings was probably more accurate on short-to-intermediate patterns, however.
Still, despite Harris obviously out-playing Jennings, Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron both made it clear after the game that the competition will remain open. Cameron reminded that this game was just one piece of the puzzle while Miles hinted that without having seen the game film, he feels confident Harris made "four to five major errors."
Continued Miles on his quarterbacks: "There's some real optimism surrounding the (quarterback) position right now. We made a couple of nice plays today, but in the same vein there were some mistakes made that need to be corrected on both sides. We're going to let the competition continue and see how things play out."
- Dural the only stand-out at receiver while other positions carry load
It seems like this time of year LSU always makes a big to-do of getting the ball to its tight ends, even if the sentiment rarely carries over to the season. Well, mark today's scrimmage down as another instance where tight ends were heavily involved in the spring. All four scholarship Tiger TEs caught at least one pass with the quartet combining for 111 yards and a touchdown on seven grabs.
Desean Smith led the way with three receptions for 45 yards and a 19-yard TD grab from Harris. He was very impressive for the White Team, routinely finding gaps in defensive zones and exploiting matchups with linebackers. Smith remains a very viable option for LSU flexed out or fully into the slot given some of the team's issues at receiver.
Speaking of those issues: Consider that of 21 receptions made in Saturday's spring game, only seven came from wide receivers. John Diarse and Rob Bolden snared one ball apiece while Travin Dural led all pass-catchers with 130 yards and two scores on five catches. Dural did what he does best – he went up to get 50/50 balls, including a fade from Harris on the final play of the first half, and was consistently the best deep threat on the field.
Dural's individual brilliance aside, it remains clear this team will have to rely on at least one of the incoming freshmen at the receiver position. Otherwise, lines in the box score like we saw today will become the norm. The tight ends caught seven passes, equaling the wide-outs, while the fullbacks combined for five catches and the running backs had the rest.
- The gulf between the first and second O-Line is staggering
Just ask Harris and Jennings, who took turns behind both offensive lines. It will come as no secret to LSU fans that the starting offensive line is shaping up well in advance of the 2014 season. With four of five starters returning from a year ago, that group protected for 273 of the Tigers' 399 passing yards on Saturday. The second team? They let up so many sacks the LSU Sports Information Department apparently stopped counting, only giving Hunter credit for two (he had a minimum of four).
Things were roughest for redshirt junior Jonah Austin, who lined up opposite Hunter at left tackle for the Purple Team. He provided little resistance against Hunter, causing Harris to take off and scramble much quicker than he did while playing for the White Team and getting to Jennings on numerous occasions. Even when that group tried doubling and helping toward Hunter, more often than not with left guard K.J. Malone, it didn't seem to matter.
One final note along the O-Line: new position coach Jeff Grimes told me after the game that the battle at right guard is still wide-open with Evan Washington and Fehoko Fanaika. The latter actually started with the White Team (first team) on Saturday, but both guys took turns rotating to either side. I'll have more from my interview with Grimes on Sunday.