If there's one position we've struggled to recruit in the Les Miles era, it's undoubtedly quarterback. I've detailed this before, but it's a spot with an awful lot of misses and really, only one true hit. Not surprisingly, QB is one of the hardest positions to evaluate. Players like Johnny Manziel and Robert Griffin were undervalued high-school prospects that turned out to be Heisman winners. Players like Jimmy Clausen, Kyle Wright, Dayne Crist and Mitch Mustain are considered upper-echelon talents that wind up becoming average or worse players.
It's a tough position to gauge, and one scouts have struggled with for ages at every level. The primary reason, from my eye, is that playing quarterback is about so much more than physical talent. We've seen great tall QBs and great short ones. We've seen great QBs that can throw it a mile and great ones that don't feature the 20-yard out in their repertoire. We've seen great ones that can run and great ones that can't move at all. We've seen great ones come from power programs and great ones come from nowhere. They come from all different backgrounds and upbringings and regions. There's simply not a QB die to be cast. You could say that a QB's success is deeply rooted in intangibles, but there's very little way to accurately assess those. Jimmy Clausen came from a pedigreed football family with years of advanced training, reported football acumen and overall "good" character, despite his obvious douchiness. He was a pretty good college football player and is now an NFL backup.
Cam Newton was an athletic marvel by his own merit without significant advanced coaching, that was arrested at Florida for stealing a lap top, transferred to a Junior College, courted some serious recruiting drama... then dominated college football and stole the "prodigy's" job outright.
If people were pieces of paper, you'd pick Jimmy Clausen every day to be the superior player. Such is quarterback evaluating.
For LSU's part, I think the blame can be doled out a few different places. Firstly, they've done a poor job evaluating the position. But probably even more importantly, they've done a poor job developing it. Good QB coaches can typically manufacture quality out of even average players (and yes, I think [QBs redacted] could be labeled as "average" players). Cam Cameron should help in both regards. Finally LSU has a proven QB coach and developer.
The 2014 recruiting class features only one QB prospect. His name is Brandon Harris.
247: #97 Nationally, #3 Dual Threat Quarterback
ESPN: #37Nationally, #2 Dual Threat Quarterback
Rivals: #99 Nationally, #9 Dual Threat Quarerback
Scout: #127 Nationally, #6 Quarterback
Harris is already on the LSU campus as an early enrollee. He's a high character kid that lead Parkway High School to their first ever State Championship appearance. I've previously written about him here. I don't want to take up too much space for my evaluation, but I do like Harris quite a bit. He's got some of the best physical tools of any QB we've recruited in the Miles era.
Yet, he's quite raw. I know some think he can legitimately challenge for the starting job this fall. I'm not in that camp, personally. But I also think Cameron will do what he thinks is best for the program both now and in the future. If he thinks Harris is significantly better than Jennings/Rettig but needs a little seasoning, he may opt to just roll him out there. At this point, I think we can feel comfortable trusting his evaluations.
None. We're done. LSU did recruit a few different QBs before landing on Harris, but Harris is the one guy we are taking this class.
What to Watch for on Signing Day
Nothing. Harris' LOI will probably be one of the first two reported, since he's already on campus.
Here's the big question. For the first time since maybe... 2009? does LSU enter the offseason without a definitive plan at QB. Even in the Jefferson/Lee years we knew JJ would be the primary starter. Now, the depth chart looks a bit more uncertain. Anthony Jennings is the presumptive favorite to win the job since he spent all of 2013 as the back-up, and filled in for an injured Zach Mettenberger against Arkansas and again against Iowa. His main competition this offseason will be Hayden Rettig and Brandon Harris. Stephen Rivers and Rob Bolden are non-factors in this race, in my opinion.
Rettig is a guy who took a redshirt, but a guy who does have considerable ability. He probably fits the mold of quarterbacks with success under Cameron, a bit better than Jennings. That said, I still think Jennings has a more advanced feel for the passing game, Iowa struggles aside. From reports, Rettig has worked really hard this season and bulked himself up. He's bigger, stronger and presumably better. He won't go down in this battle without a fight.
Harris is the rawest and most behind but probably most gifted of the three. He's a competitive kid with the tools to be the starter at some juncture, though I'm not sure it will be in 2014.
Jennings, who you all know I'm quite fond of, cannot enter this offseason assuming anything. He needs to authoritatively win the job, leaving no doubt about who the starter is heading into the summer. The longer this thing drags on, the longer Rettig and Harris will have to impress the coaches.
Overall, the LSU QB position is in better position than it's been in since the days of Jamarcus/Flynn. Depth and talent are extremely strong. The future is bright.