While true freshman Deshaun Watson and his nation-leading 11.9 yards per attempt average have taken over the Clemson offense, another true freshman has apparently taken the reigns of another previously middling Tiger offense.
After a crushingly-effective performance in the Bayou Bengals’ 63-7 trouncing of New Mexico State, true freshman Brandon Harris has taken control of No. 15 LSU’s offense. Harris did not garner a start Saturday night versus the Aggies – that would go to sophomore Anthony Jennings – but nonetheless shined as he completed 11-of-14 passes for 178 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, while rushing five times for 36 yards and two touchdowns. It doesn’t matter the opponent, producing five touchdowns in 19 total touches is an efficiency every stat guru can appreciate.
Harris’ best performance to date, however, came in LSU’s only loss. Trailing Mississippi State 34-16 in the fourth quarter, Harris connected on 6-of-9 passes for 140 yards with two touchdowns and rushed twice for 19 yards. He threw one interception, but it was a Hail Mary as time expired as LSU threw for the win in an eventual 34-29 loss.
I have no idea how the QBR that ESPN lists in its box scores is calculated, but I do know 100 is the highest possible score. Harris’ scores against Mississippi State and New Mexico State? How about 98.2 and 98.9. For the year, he’s connected on 22-of-30 throws for 394 yards (13.1 yards per attempt) for six touchdowns and the last gasp pick, while also rushing 16 times for 108 yards and three scores. Harris’ 242.98 quarterback rating would lead the nation by 25 points if he had enough points to qualify.
And here’s the ultimate efficiency rating for a quarterback: in Harris’ 15 drives, 12 have ended in touchdowns.
Despite that success, head coach Les Miles has not ceded Jennings’ starting job to Harris.
“Brandon Harris came in and did exactly what we needed him to do. He handled the communications, and he made positive plays. Seven straight scoring drives, no turnovers, he operated the offense very effectively. I didn’t see that as a surprise,” he said following last night’s win.
“But I can tell you this. We’re going to need both quarterbacks this season. There’s a long season left. Anthony Jennings has to get better. Some of the things he did, the fumble and two picks, are things he cannot do. He’ll have to make changes, he’ll have to improve.”
Three things are likely true here. First, Harris is not as good as his numbers. No quarterback in college football is capable of throwing up a near 250 rating over the course of a season. Second, there are moments coming – possibly as soon as this week’s trip to No. 5 Auburn – where opposing defenses will make Harris look like the true freshman he is, making Jennings the better option from time to time. And finally, despite those truths, Harris is the quarterback of the future in Baton Rouge, and the future is creeping closer every time he touches the football.