If someone asked you, “What kind of team is LSU?” How would you answer? Since 2005, when Les Miles arrived, the answer would probably come easily. It would be some combination of strong defense, B1G running, & coaching quirks to keep things spicy.
Before you got to pondering QB play, you’d probably mention how special kickers have been under Miles & his haberdashery habits. QB play at LSU is less important than a coherent plot line in True Blood. In Les Miles nine years, the Tigers have won 10+ games seven times. In four of those seven years–that’s over half–LSU has had a QB with a rating in the back half of the conference.
In the two years where LSU had far and away their best QB play (2006 with JaMarcus Russell & 2013 with Mettenberger), LSU not only failed to win the SEC, they also didn’t win their division.
During 2008 and 2009, still the only two years where LSU won less than 10 games, LSU QB play rated 6th and 5th in the conference. In other words, the QB play was similar to every other year under Les Miles.*
*Obviously, you can see the flaw here with QB rating, given Lee’s absurd amount of INTs for TDs in 2008, but the raw numbers were still comparable to other more successful years.
LSU has never relied on a QB, in their best seasons, to win them games. The best LSU teams had their best defenses & strongest lines. Yes, that type of winning requires an efficient QB, which LSU has managed most years. But, it’s never been a prerequisite for success.
That’s why saying that LSU needs to settle on a QB this year to have success is incorrect. Brandon Harris & Anthony Jennings, with only a little over a game of experience between them, are already better than the two-headed tire fire that populated the QB position in the middle Miles years.
LSU is also breaking in an entirely new wide receiver corps. Even if the QBs are wise beyond their years, they’ll be throwing to receivers who’ve had limited real life reps & without knowing how they’ll perform over a season. It’s even more reason why the LSU formula will be paramount this season. The defense will have to grow up early (a familiar refrain) & LSU will have to lean on what could be one of the best backfields in college football.
This year, an LSU quarterback may attempt 25+ passes in less than half the games played. That’s how much this team will rely on the running game. In 2011, LSU attempted just 20.5 passes per game and had one of the best regular seasons in the history of college football. With four of five offensive linemen returning, including an All-American tackle, it would be folly for LSU not to follow a similar formula.
The greater pressure should be on the defense. Last year’s defense, while not bad statistically, wasn’t an LSU defense. Late-game passing breakdowns cost the Tigers in the middle of the season. With a more seasoned secondary & a linebacker corps poised to be one of the best Chavis has had in his time in Baton Rouge, the defense has the ingredients to be the bell cow again.
If that becomes the case, it’s not going to matter whether Harris or Jennings is taking the majority of the snaps or if they’re splitting. LSU will be too busy steamrolling opponents in the second half of games.