Just the first dip on QB roller coaster

Published 8:33 am Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Good to have that settled, huh?

LSU finally got itself a real quarterback and now the Tigers can get on with the business of being Tigers again.

Whew. Seemed like it took forever.

It’s been a spotty 4-1 season thus far, including a loss to a team LSU fans are used to dominating. But everything should be all right now that the coaches finally have seen the light, heard the desperate pleas and heeded the calls from the cheap seats, and admitted that Brandon Harris is their quarterback.

Sorry it took so long. You just can’t rush these things, have to let them play out. But he’s now ready to lay siege to unsuspecting SEC secondaries and …

Whoa. Whooooa. Just hold on a minute here.

Settle down.

Let us all wish young Harris well in his endeavors.

He looks to have the goods, certainly the arm. Pretty impressive feet, too.

He’s a little on the slim side, perhaps, but hopefully no SEC defense will snap him in half like a pretzel stick before he grows up.

There are even hints that he might possess a bit of the “It” factor so important for the position.

The LSU offense certainly seems to run much smoother with him behind the wheel.

But don’t be expecting any miracles, OK.

For instance — also first and foremost — can he beat Auburn Saturday in quite a hostile environment?

Uh, probably not.

True freshmen don’t often do that sort thing in this league.

Not saying it’s impossible.

Not saying it absolutely can’t happen, but only because it would fit right in with what you should expect with Harris.

He has just enough self-confidence (plenty of it, bucket loads of it) to stride out there and do something totally outrageous for one so young land naive.

It could just as easily get him in trouble. And surely will at some point.

But you might as well learn to live with it.

This is going to be a bumpy ride.

Entertaining, yes. Admit it, he’s fun to watch, has obvious talent. It will be exhilarating at times. But there will be hair-pulling moments aplenty.

Point is, when the “safe” choice blew up LSU’s face last week with Anthony Jennings’ turnover-plagued first quarter, the Tigers had little choice but to make a change.

Might as well go with the one with more upside.

It’s not written in stone.

Nobody has said this quarterback competition is over.

Unfortunately, there aren’t anymore New Mexico States on the schedule.

At any rate, Harris will be the first LSU true freshman to start at quarterback this early in a season since Jamie Howard did it a full 22 years ago.

Harris’ first start, oddly, will come where Howard earned his.

That year, mid-September of 1992, Howard came off the bench at Auburn to throw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes, rallying the Tigers from a 20-point deficit to a 28-27 lead very late in the game. But Auburn won the thing on a defensive collapse/last-second field goal.

It was the first time Howard — who, like Harris, was a highly touted recruit — had played and would have been the greatest comeback in LSU history. But that’s kind of the way it went during the crazy Curley Hallman days.

The consolation was that LSU finally found a quarterback after getting to the fourth one they had tried just three games into the season.

So in Howard’s first start the next week — at home — LSU was upset 17-14 by Colorado State.

That’s even more so how it tended go with Curley.

Still, there was a heartwarming ending.

Howard held the job until an injury prematurely ended his senior season.

He hung in there through a lot of ups and downs to enjoy the program’s mini-renaissance under new coach Gerry DiNardo, back when a breakthrough season meant going to Shreveport for the Independence Bowl.

Auburn also figured in another LSU quarterback switch/debut.

Fans, having gotten excited by the usual backup quarterback chatter, had been clamoring for sophomore Rohan Davey before the 1999 game and — why not? — DiNardo finally threw up his arms and granted their wish.

It did not go well. In fact, Davey was awful. He threw two early picks, also lost a fumble, and Auburn led 24-0 before everybody got settled in their seats. He was yanked before the half, perhaps for his own safety, and Auburn won 41-7. It was the game coach Tommy Tuberville famously celebrated by passing out cigars for his team to enjoy in Tiger Stadium.

Everybody assumed they’d seen the last of Davey, and he did lose the starting job. It was made all the sadder because he was such an all-around good fellow.

But he hung around and eventually was the heart and soul of Nick Saban’s first SEC championship team in 2001.

So both of those examples eventually worked out.

But they didn’t just snap their fingers and make it happen.

Harris has better players around him that either of those examples.

Most of them, however, don’t have much more experience than he does — which is next to nothing if you don’t include shooting Aggie fish in a New Mexico State barrel.

Harris will be dealing with a different breed of defensive livestock at Auburn.

So hang on, try to be patient. It’s going to be wild and crazy.

Maybe even fun.

l

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU

athletics. Email him at

shobbs@americanpress.com(MGNonline)