It looked like the Saturday of the spring game would be kind of dreary, with the game somewhat in peril. I don't mind saying that I had absolutely no intentions of watching a spring game in the rain. Luckily, I was able to line up a press box credential, so it wasn't an issue.
Fittingly, I wound up sitting with Cody Worsham and James Moran of Tiger Rag, who are both good guys. We were just a Matt DeVille and a Greg LaRose from a full-on reunion.
Anyways, with the first(ish) team offense putting up some 505 yards of offense, including 356 passing yards from Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris with a combined for a 68 percent completion rate, I don't imagine there are too many complaints. People saw, more or less, what I would imagine they wanted to see. Certainly, if you're somebody that's complained after past spring games, you should probably be in a good mood.
Still, talkin' bout practice and all that. No questions are really answered right now, but it definitely looks like LSU's quarterbacks have progressed somewhat from last season.
Here are a couple of observations:
- Won't bury the lede here -- Jennings and Harris both looked very comfortable in what they doing, for the most part. Harris looked a little shaky early on behind the backup offensive line, but that's not unwarranted because they were giving up pressure steadily. After a few series, all that went away and he finished 17-21 for a 178 yards with two touchdowns and a pick.
- The biggest takeaway there is that ultimately, Harris can simply throw the ball. Not just better than Jennings, but better than most quarterbacks in this conference, I'd wager. His first touchdown to Malachi Dupre was a thing of beauty. Dupre was covered with safety help, but Harris tossed a long, hard rainbow towards the endzone pylon that either his guy would get or no one would get. He made a similar pass in the second quarter to D.J. Chark for a 45-yard gain, just gunning the ball out where his receiver had a chance to make a play.
- To boot, he stayed within himself at smart moments as well. Example: on a third-and-nine in the first quarter, Harris found John Diarse for a 7-yard gain. Diarse had stumbled on the route, but Harris could see he had open space and stayed calm, sliding up in the pocket and throwing a dart. It would have been an easy for a QB to discount the open guy and try to break contain, but Harris made the measured play, and while it didn't pick up a first, it maintained field position and had it been a real game, LSU would have been in good position to consider going for it on fourth down.
- Jennings was a little more up and down, but it's really hard to complain about a 13-for-20, 242-yard, two-touchdown performance. Like Harris, Jennings looks like he has a solid feel for the play, and aside from a really risky red-zone toss to Dupre, he doesn't take a lot of risks with the ball. But he just isn't consistently accurate enough. Even some of his passes that were completed were really rough looking, such as the 37-yard touchdown to Dupre or the 70-yarder to Travin Dural. The long completion the Dural was particularly rough. He'd beaten Russell Gage on a double-move the walk-on safety had busted. Dural was WIDE, WIIIIIDE open, and he practically had to field a punt. It gave the defense enough time to recover and turn what should have been an 83-yard touchdown into a "mere" 70-yard completion. Although the irony of complaining about a 70-yard pass is certainly not lost on me, and it shouldn't be lost on you, either.
- Of course, Jennings' best throw of the day was probably a third-down incompletion to Diarse. Ed Paris was in near-perfect coverage, just right in Diarse's hip pocket, in good position to get an arm over the top of the receiver. Jennings lays out an absolutely perfect ball right out into Diarse's outstretched hands, but his feet and Paris's got tangled and he lost the ball in the tumble.
- Friday in a radio interview, Cam Cameron mentioned opening things up a bit in the game, and with passes on some 44/89 offensive snaps, he wasn't lying. I didn't chart the formtions play to play, but drive to drive, 11 personnel, or one back, one tight end and three receivers were definitely a steady feature.
- LSU came out running a LOT of quick waggle plays to the tight ends, a nice way to get things started with a quick, completable throw. Plays like that are something that was missing a year ago.
- Another interesting wrinkle, was that Dupre worked almost exclusively out of the slot when LSU was in a three-wide look, and it's where he did all of his damage as well. The most impressive thing about the 6-3 sophomore was the way he tracked some of the passes in the air. Both of his touchdowns took some big-time coordination to get his head around and then catch over his shoulder.
- Speaking of nice throws, Justin McMillan's 50-yard touchdown to DeSean Smith was one of the best of the day. Just a bullet down the seam to Smith on a post, right over the coverage.
- And speaking of coverage, Tre'davious White and Paris both did fine jobs outside. Remarkably consistent. Most of the big plays on the day came over the middle or to slot receivers matched up on nickelbacks/safeties. In fact, White's name didn't get called much at all on the day, which should tell you something.
- Harris's lone pick was more a case of Kevin Toliver making a fantastic play. He got a great jam on Chark and the line and stayed right on top of him down the field. Harris took a shot on the man-to-man coverage, but Toliver made the play instead of the receiver.
- It can be tough to draw too much from the defense, because they're still not really going full speed the way you'd like to see. Still, some formations were evident, such as the "under" front when the defense as in base, along with some over looks in nickel and dime packages. In obvious passing situations, the defense played some wider techniques to try and stretch the protection.
- Maquedius Bain came through with three sacks from the left end spot, which was nice to see. He moves really well for his size, and could be an interesting matchup issue on that strong side of the formation.
- Jamal Adams is going to be a SPECIAL weapon against the spread teams. He can matchup on slot guys and just fly up against the run.
- Still the spring game king -- Ronnie Feist led all players with seven tackles. And while I'm certainly rooting for him to make an impact in the fall, but I don't see him taking a starting job from Kendall Beckwith, Lamar Louis or Deion Jones.