Apologies for the lateness on this, but Wrestlemania beckoned me to the Silver...er...SUPERdome on Sunday.
Overall, as you would think, there wasn't much to it. But here's a quick-and-dirty rundown:
- Big topic first: Quarterbacks. It's no shocker that I came out of this game feeling the same way I felt going in -- that the competition between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris is not over, and will certainly stretch into August camp. Don't expect to hear a starter named until Wisconsin game prep begins.
That said, Harris clearly outplayed Jennings in this one, completing 11-of-28 passes for both the White and Purple squads for a combined 195 yards and three touchdowns, with a game-high 75 yards rushing and a touchdown as well. Harris can flat out deal the football. He just made some outstanding passes down the field, to both covered and open receivers. He also showed some quick feet and some nice pocket awareness -- all of his runs came on scrambles, there wasn't a single designed QB run called. Where he struggled was with his short and intermediate throws (he scattered his first few passes), along with some discomfort under center. That's no huge shock, as he played his entire high school career in the shotgun.
Jennings wasn't as bad as many probably think. He's steady getting through his progressions, and throws the short pass better. His intermediate-to-deep-throws still have a tendency to be high, and he looks a little tentative on the move. More unsure of whether he wants to take off and break the pocket or try and find a check-down. He did lead a very nice scoring drive to open the third quarter, hitting a couple of throws in a row and throwing a nice 13-yard touchdown pass to Dural on a post-corner route. Of his two pick-sixes, the first I chalk up to something of a spring-game fluke. Jennings looked through his progressions and tried to check down to a running back, but kind of tossed it blindly, giving Debo Jones an easy break. Jones had probably seen that read dozens of times throughout the spring, and it's not a mistake you'd expect to see again. The second pick-six to Kwon Alexander, however, was a bad decision -- trying to squeeze a sideline route in and throwing it too short so that the defender could undercut it.
- Overall for the spring, I think it's safe to say that Harris has shown more flashes, while Jennings has been a little more consistent -- he did at least manage to get over the 50-percent mark as a passer. I don't think anything is settled yet, and summer workouts/fall camp will tell the rest of this story. I will say that if Harris can continue to make up the ground he has this spring already, he'll be getting snaps sooner rather than later.
- Interesting quarterback side note: coaches left them live-fire on scramble drills. There weren't many full-on blows in the pocket, but there was no sheltering them once they took off.
- LSU had all of maybe two scholarship receivers 100 percent for this one (John Diarse played, but was clearly slowed by his shoulder issue). Quantavius Leslie showed next to nothing, but Dural really appears to be coming into his own. His ability to play to contact -- to use his hands and screen/post up on defenders -- really jumped out. LSU's corners came to play in this game, and Dural outmuscled them for a couple of balls (5 catches for 130 yards and 2 TDs), including a beautiful fade route over Ed Paris, who had near perfect position. Dural just got over him, got his hands on the ball and tapped a toe to stay in. LSU will still need to rely on some of the freshmen arriving in the summer, but Dural definitely looks the part of a No. 1 target right now.
- Speaking of targets, tight ends caught a combined 8 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown, and probably got at least another three-five looks. Just sayin'.
- Not surprisingly, there wasn't much to see from the running backs, although Connor Neighbors looks to be in the best shape of his career, and Kenny Hilliard flashed some nice instincts in the passing game, finding the open space on a stop-route out of the backfield, and turning a check-down from Jennings into a 42-yard gain. Melvin Jones is also built like a brick house.
- Line play is really hard to gauge in these things, but predictably, the starting five for the White squad (LSU's likely starting O-line) were superb versus the Purple D-line, which featured mostly backups. Jennings and Harris took some sacks, but not for lack of a nice pocket.
- That said, Danielle Hunter has the potential to be a superstar here. It wasn't so much about the sacks as much as the way he was just omnipresent on almost every play, giving the tackles hell and tracking down the ball. Christian LaCouture was incredibly active as well, ditto Frank Herron.
- Why did they take those sacks? Because the LSU defensive backs were doing an exquisite job in coverage, particularly Tre'davious White and Rashard Robinson. Jalen Collins seems to have found his ability to hit again as well. At safety, Jalen Mills and Ricky Jefferson both showed a lot of range, flying up versus the run but doing a strong job of providing deep help as well. Jefferson, in particular, really laid some licks out there.
- At linebacker, two surprise names really jumped out: Lamar Louis and Ronnie Feist. Louis was wearing a green no-contact jersey but didn't shy away from it. Threw his body around and stuck his nose into every gap and every pile out there. Finished with 7 total tackles. Feist led all players with 11 stops playing as the starting middle ‘backer for the Purple team. Only three were solos, but he was everywhere on that field, involved in almost every play. It was quite surprising for a guy that I actually forgot was still on the team until a few weeks ago. Spring game mirage? Guess we'll see.
- Best stat of from this game -- no major injuries. Terrence Magee appeared to aggravate his ankle, but that's nothing that will linger.
That's about it. Like I said, we're likely to see a lot of overreaction to the quarterbacks, as usual. Don't get me wrong, Harris deserves his accolades. He has some exciting potential. That said, this competition is nowhere near over.