LSU is averaging fewer passing yards per game this season than a year ago entering Saturday night's trip to Alabama, but nobody is complaining.
Behind the efficient play of sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris, the Tigers seem to be developing the perfect aerial complement to sophomore tailback and Heisman Trophy favorite Leonard Fournette. LSU's average of 466.0 total yards per game dwarfs last season's clip of 387.5, and Harris is the only Southeastern Conference starting quarterback yet to throw an interception.
"He continues to improve," LSU coach Les Miles said. "He's very accurate and very capable, and he understands where he's supposed to throw it. He's becoming more pointed in terms of wanting to be accurate. In other words, a good throw is not good enough any more. He wants to be very, very accurate.
"I like his tenacity and leadership around the team. He's where we would like him to be, and we would hope he will continue that path."
A 6-foot-3, 206-pounder from Bossier City, La., Harris was rated by ESPN as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback nationally in the 2014 class, with 247Sports.com ranking him No. 3 and Rivals.com No. 5. He backed up Anthony Jennings most of last season, with his one start resulting in a disastrous 41-7 loss at Auburn.
Harris outperformed Jennings most of this year and jumped to the forefront in June, when Jennings was arrested and temporarily suspended for unlawfully entering an apartment. Since the season started, Harris has protected the ball and rapidly ascended into a leadership role.
"There is no way you can be a leader without being a really quality participant," Miles said. "You have to be able to make plays, and you have to care, and Brandon Harris has that. His leadership has grown by leaps and bounds. I don't think there is any question that he has improved tremendously."
Said Tigers right guard William Clapp: "He doesn't get too high or too low in a game. We see that he's not nervous, and it makes everybody else comfortable."
That LSU is averaging 156.9 passing yards per game compared to last season's 162.9-yard average is misleading on a couple of fronts.
Fournette is averaging an eye-popping 193.1 yards per game after averaging 79.5 last year, so there is no need to increase pass attempts when Fournette isn't getting stopped. There is also the fact that the Tigers have played 28 quarters so far in their 7-0 start and have trailed after only one of them, falling behind Florida 7-0 after the first 15 minutes in their eventual 35-28 win.
Harris, however, has produced more and more each week and will enter Bryant-Denny Stadium having thrown for three consecutive 200-yard games.
"They've made a lot of explosive plays in the passing game," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said, "and I think they're taking advantage of what people are trying to do to stop the run. The key to the drill is being able to stop the run, but you can't give them big plays.
"When they get big plays, they score lots of points, and when you have a good defense and good special teams like they have, it's hard to make that up."
LSU's passing-game potential was put on display two weeks ago in a 48-20 rout of Western Kentucky, when Harris completed just 11 of 20 passes but threw for a career-high 286 yards and three touchdowns. Harris has completed 75 of 128 passes (58.6 percent) this season for 1,098 yards and nine touchdowns.
No Football Bowl Subdivision quarterback this season has thrown so many passes without getting intercepted, and Harris also is averaging 3.3 yards per carry and has three rushing scores.
"He was the backup quarterback last year and won the job this year and has played really, really well," Saban said. "The guy has not played like a first-year quarterback at all. He has executed very well. He has taken care of the ball. He hasn't thrown any interceptions, and he's made a lot of big plays.
"He can scramble and keep plays alive and keep his eyes down the field, so he has certainly developed into an outstanding player."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.