Brandon Harris’ announced decision Monday to transfer for his senior season is equal parts understandable and disappointing; at the same time both predictable and bold.
Let’s take them in order, shall we?
Since 2008, Jordan Jefferson is the only quarterback that signed with LSU out of high school completed his eligibility with that Tigers. Chris Garrett, Zach Lee, Stephen Rivers, Hayden Rettig, Anthony Jennings and now Harris are all victims of the LSU QB graveyard. And it’s not just LSU that can’t keep quarterbacks. No doubt you’re rattling off the names that have fled your favorite program as well.
Harris has one season of eligibility remaining and he lost his job to Danny Etling. Even with a new head coach and offensive coordinator, he decided it wasn’t worth the risk of sitting for another year. So Harris – as a graduate transfer who will be immediately eligible to play elsewhere – will take his talents to a QB-needy program with hopes of a successful run to wow scouts that are no doubt intrigued by his 6-foot-3 frame and rocket arm.
Still, his decision is disappointing especially after Harris wrote on Twitter in December that he would return to LSU and try to win back his job. I wrote a column lauding Harris’ perseverance at the time. He was bucking the trend of seeking the path of least resistance to the field.
Unfortunately, his valor was short-lived. Some have suggested that Harris’ decision to leave must be the result of Ed Orgeron and Matt Canada telling him he would not play.
Nonsense! Transferring is just what quarterbacks do in today’s college football.
Quarterback depth is a luxury of which no team can have too much. Certainly Orgeron isn’t arrogant enough to think he’s better off without Harris, who has 15 career starts in Baton Rouge.
Now, should something happen to Etling, there are still four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, though none of them have taken a meaningful snap. So why would Orgeron walk a tightrope without a net?
For example, in 2008, LSU was caught in a QB quagmire after Matt Flynn graduated, Ryan Perrilloux was dismissed and all that was left was redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee, true freshman Jordan Jefferson and a Harvard transfer named Andrew Hatch. The Tigers went 7-5 before beating Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The desperate need for experienced quarterbacks is why Harris will, no doubt, find a new home. Let’s not forget that Greyson Lambert went for Virginia castaway to starting games at Georgia. Austin Appleby got run off at Purdue but became the starter at Florida. Familiar names across college football like Shane Morris and Anu Solomon will be calling plays for new squads in 2017 as graduate transfers.
So Harris, too, will find a coach who falls in love with his arm strength and convinces himself he can refine the raw talent that Cam Cameron couldn’t – and presumably start considering he only has one year left to do it.
Still, Harris is taking a risk in leaving LSU. He has three years of equity built in Baton Rouge and it’s not as if Danny Etling is a Heisman Trophy candidate. In fact, in LSU’s two losses under Orgeron, Etling led an LSU offense that was shut out at home against Alabama and scored only 10 in an embarrassing loss to Florida.
Harris was, technically, one turned ankle or bad outing away from resuming his starting role. And what’s to say that Canada wouldn’t have found Harris’ skillset more conducive to his offense like he ran with Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett at NC State?
In 2007, Flynn won a national title as a fifth-year senior and first-year starter. History has shown perseverance is often rewarded. But as for Brandon Harris, he will write the final chapter of his college career wearing a different uniform, something that is becoming all too predictable an ending in today’s college football.
(You can follow Matt Moscona on Twitter @MattMoscona)
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