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April 5, 2014

Harris announces candidacy for QB job

LSU football coach Les Miles certainly wasn't about to concede his team's starting quarterback job for the 2014 season after Saturday's spring game.

But with the Tigers six months away from their season opener Miles realized the gap that existed between sophomore Anthony Jennings and true freshman Brandon Harris got a little tighter following the end of spring practice.

Harris, who stepped on campus a little over three months ago, accounted for 272 total yards and four touchdowns to highlight a rather mundane spring game that the White captured, 42-14, before an announced Tiger Stadium crowd of 18,565.

"Brandon Harris made some good plays," Miles said. "He threw the ball at times extremely well. 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 this thing plays out. It serves us to say that there's some talent at that spot. We really think that we'll develop quite nicely."

LSU's offense piled up 622 total yards, including 399 through the air, with the White registering 443 yards compared to 179 for the Purple.

"We didn't run the football as well as we'd like, but the defense tackled and played well," Miles said. "At the end of the spring with the spring game, this is just what we need."

Junior linebacker Deion Jones gave the Purple a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter with a 67-yard return of a Jennings interception.

"Coach called the right coverage on the play," Jones said of defensive coordinator John Chavis. "I waited for him to check down and the ball was there. That's (TD) the best feeling."

It turned out to be the first of two interceptions Jennings had returned, one for each team he played on, when junior linebacker Kwon Alexander replicated the feat with a 26-yard TD in the second quarter.

During that span Harris had swapped places with Jennings to the White squad - regarded as more of LSU's more experienced group - and directed the Tigers to three straight scoring drives and a 28-7 halftime advantage.

Walk-on defensive back Austin Suits of Parkview Baptist recovered Ed Paris' fumbled punt and three plays later Harris, out of the shotgun, spotted tight end DeSean Smith on a crossing route for a 19-yard score.

Sandwiched around Alexander's pick-six were a pair of second-quarter drives Harris engineered for 72 and 80 yards, respectively, to cap a stretch of 28 unanswered points and give the White team a comfortable lead.

Harris threw to fullback Connor Neighbors out of the backfield on a 5-yard score on second-and-goal and capped the half with an impressive 16-play drive that included five of the team's 20 first downs.

Harris found Smith for a key 17-yard gain on third-and-10 to the Purple's 35, connected with tight end Travis Dixon for eight yards to the 21 before calling timeout with seven seconds left.

On the next play Harris calmly flicked his wrist to Dural on a 21-yard fade to beat tight coverage from Paris on the half's final play.

Harris wound up 11 of 28 for 195 yards and 3 TDs to go along with six rushes for 77 yards and another score. The bulk of his yardage came with the White team where the former Parkway All-Stater was 8-of-18 for 122 yards and 3 TDs.

Because he's a true freshman Harris was not made available for interviews afterward.

"He made some really big plays and nice passes, but he also made some mistakes," Miles said. "It was certainly reviewed very positively by us. We're a ways away, but there needs to be improvement in both spots."

Jennings, who was 6-of-14 for 62 yards and a pair of interceptions in the first half, changed jerseys back to White for the first series of third quarter and put together his best moments of the game.

Jennings connected with tight end Dillon Gordon for 24 yards to ignite a 4-play, 73-yard drive. He followed that with a completion to a wide-open Kenny Hilliard crossing underneath on a play that resulted in a 41-yard gain to the Purple 8-yard line.

A false start penalty on second down pushed the White back to the 13 before Jennings covered the ground in one throw to Dural, who wound up with five catches for 130 yards on the day.

That turned out to be end of the game for Jennings with Hayden Rettig getting the final two series with the White team.

Jennings wound up 9-of-17 for 157 yards for the two teams.

"If you throw an interception and you don't come right back, then you're not a good quarterback," Jennings said. "Every quarterback goes through adversity. It's how you respond, not how you fall. Right now there's no starting quarterback. We're competing to get that job in the fall."

Harris guided the Purple team to its only offensive touchdown of the game to make it 35-14 with 4:50 left in the third quarter.

Two straight completions from Harris to Rob Bolden of 37 yards and a laser along the sideline to John Diarse of 33 yards were the catalyst in a march Harris punctuated with a 4-yard run around left end off nice play fake.

Hilliard, the game's leading rusher among running backs with 59 yards on 16 attempts, capped the game's scoring after Rettig's 47-yard completion to Dural. The senior ran the ball on six straight plays with the finale - a three-yarder - resulting in a touchdown with 8:40 to play.

"It was a productive day," Hilliard said. "There were a couple of mistakes but that's part of the spring. We've got come back in the fall and get better and get ready for the first game."



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