LSU Football: Brandon Harris key to Tigers’ title hopes in 2016


Expectations are running high in Baton Rouge, Louisiana after going 9-3 in 2015. But if they want to take the next step in 2016, quarterback play must improve.

Through the months of September and October, LSU running back Leonard Fournette was putting up ridiculous numbers and making jaw-dropping plays.

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But then November came. Teams started to get smart and decided to stack the box. Fournette only tallied 31 yards against Alabama which resulted in the Tigers’ first loss of the 2015 season. He would follow that poor performance with two more subpar outings in losses against Arkansas, 91 yards, and Ole Miss, 108 yards.

Since opposing teams focusing stuffing the run, LSU looked to quarterback Brandon Harris to make them pay.

He couldn’t deliver.

Against the Crimson Tide, Harris only completed 31.6-percent of his passes for 128 yards. When the Tigers took on the Razorbacks, he was sacked five teams for a loss of 44 total yards. And against the Rebels, Harris threw the ball 51 times, which he only completed 51-percent of his passes and was picked up twice.

Entering the 2016 season, LSU has several key ingredients to be a legit national title contender. The Tigers have a Heisman candidate in Fournette. They have a deep and talented offensive line and several talented playmakers in the passing game. And on the defensive side, LSU has seasoned veterans like safety Jamal Adams and linebacker Kendell Beckwith.

The thing that’s holding them from being a contender instead of a pretender is Harris.

Last season Harris failed to top over 200 yards passing in six of the 12 games LSU competed in. He also failed to complete more than 50-percent of his passes in four games last year. However, Harris had good moments in 2015 as well.

The 6-foot-3, 206-pound quarterback 2,165 yards, 13 touchdowns, and six interceptions while completing 54.1-percent of his passes in his first full season as collegiate starting quarterback. But his numbers and level of play must improve in 2016 if LSU wants a shot at the college football championship.

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And according to some of Harris’ teammates, he has looked like a new quarterback this offseason.

“I think he’s doing a tremendous job, and I’m ready to see the new Brandon Harris on in September,” Fournette said at SEC Media Days. “He has a new swag to himself. He’s talking like a quarterback should talk. He’s taking over at practice.”

That is certainly a good sign for LSU fans, but what exactly does Harris have to work on to become a better signal caller in 2016?

Harris has all the physical attributes to be one of the best gunslingers in the SEC. He possesses a strong arm and has the ability to run the ball as well. The downside to his play is that he does everything too late or too slow.

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The thing that separates the great quarterbacks from the average quarterbacks is their decision-making. The great signal callers are able to think quick on their feet and make the right decision. And that is exactly what is hurting Harris’ play.

Harris’ tape shows he is too slow in his decision-making and too slow to get the ball out of his hands. That with a lack of rhythm and timing, and accuracy issues to all aspects of the field that stem from poor throwing mechanics.

But as previously mentioned, Harris seems like a new player entering this year.

“(He’s) more fluent with receivers, knows everything that’s going on with the protections,” said center Ethan Pocic at media days. “He’s the man now. He’s got everything.”

Even if Harris is a new and improved quarterback, it is clear that his 2015 form won’t cut it for the Tigers this upcoming year. The new supposed new version of himself will help get the most out of Fournette, veteran pass catcher Travin Dural and preseason All-SEC selection Malachi Dupre.

For LSU to claim its first national title since 2007, they will need Harris to be more consistent and be the new quarterback that his teammates are telling everyone about this year.