Anthony Jennings, for now LSU’s No. 1 quarterback, spoke with reporters after the Tigers’ second day of spring practice on Monday.
The rising sophomore discussed his performance in the Outback Bowl, his growing leadership capabilities and his relationship with players.
He touched on the competition between him, Brandon Harris and Hayden Rettig, and he discussed his maturing football IQ and stronger arm.
What do you need to prove this spring to win the starting job?
Jennings: I just do what I can do. Just become a better teammate, better team leader. Do the things I did to start the bowl game. Just come in and work hard.
How much are you embracing the opportunity to be the starting quarterback?
Jennings: It’s a blessing. Comes with hard work. All my teammates and people that have helped me. All the strength staff. It’s not all about me. It’s all about people around me.
It can’t be easy trying to fill the shoes of Zach Mettenberger, right?
Jennings: Nah. He’s a great quarterback. He’s going to be a great NFL quarterback. Great person. Coming from behind him, I have a lot to live up to.
What’s your relationship been like with Brandon Harris?
Jennings: I’m the only one that’s been in his shoes. Early enrollee, freshman, just like I was last year. He’s trying to compete for the job just like I was. Just trying to tell him things that I went through and just be ready for the moment when it comes.
How different will this year’s offense be compared to last season?
Jennings: We still have great backs, still have great receivers. I don’t think the offense will change that much. I know I have the ability to run but that’s not what I do first. I don’t think the offense is going to change that much. Coach Miles is still the head coach. Think we’re still going to run the ball.
After your Outback Bowl performance, do you feel as if you’ve got a chip on our shoulder?
Jennings: I don’t think that game was one of my best games. If it was, I don’t think I’d be starting. I feel like every game, there are ways to improve, ways to get better.
What did you learn from that game and how many times did you watch the tape?
Jennings: I watched it so many times. I’ve learned that winning is the most important thing. Come out with a win, that’s all you’re really trying to (do is) go in and win the football game. Keep winning games like that, we’ll be national champions.
What were the problems you had in the Outback Bowl?
Jennings: I don’t know. Maybe freshman jitters. All I really know is, my teammates rallied around me and we got the win.
What is offensive coordinator Cam Cameron trying to teach you?
Jennings: Become a better leader. Keep the emotions inside and make those emotions make you play better. Teach me the game of football, how to be a quarterback leader. You have to lead your team. Become a smarter football player, football IQ. All of the little things, like technique and throwing the ball well and accuracy.
Do you think you can win the job this spring?
Jennings: That’s not for me to decide. I’m going to come out here and do my best every day and they make that decision.
Brandon Harris collided with you during some of the roll-out drills, right?
Jennings: I did the same thing to Zach (Mettenberger). I know how it is. You’re not going to be perfect right when you walk on campus. It’s all fine. It’s all fine. I’m ready to get him going and teach him everything that I know and I’m still learning too.
You feel more confident?
Jennings: I’m definitely more confident. I know all of the guys for a year now. I’m confident of every guy on my team that rallied around me to become a better leader, better quarterback. All of us in the quarterback room are getting better. You have better relationships on the team that makes you better.
What have you seen from Hayden Rettig and Brandon Harris so far?
Jennings: Hayden and Brandon look like great quarterbacks. They wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t play on this level. They’re going, just like I am, trying to progress every day. Brandon’s throwing the ball well, still has a lot of things to learn in the offense, but I was in that predicament last year. He’s throwing the ball well. He’s vocal. We’re all trying to get better as spring goes along.
What’s an example of something that happened in the first couple of days in spring that is representative of your growth from last season?
Jennings: Just speaking to my teammates. I didn’t really know anybody (last year). I had just got here. Just talking to them and getting to know them better … I can talk to them on a football level and on a personal level.
How much contact do you have with coach Cameron?
Jennings: Pretty much up here six days a week. So just trying to talk to him and get what he knows and trying to get that in my arsenal to play quarterback.
What’s been his main focus with you?
Jennings: Becoming smarter. Smarter in the game. Football IQ. Knowing what I have to do to get better. He’s been trying to teach me things.
How much more confident are you this season?
Jennings: I’m a lot more confident. I’ve been in the system for a year. I feel confident in the plays we’re running and things we’re doing in the leadership role. I’m not saying I’m a leader like Kenny Hilliard or La’el Collins, but I’m rapidly increasing my IQ and just trying to get better.
You feel the team following you?
Jennings: Definitely. Like last year I was kind of like shaking, didn’t know what to call in the huddle. Now I’m confident and speaking up.
What’s your development in the passing game?
Jennings: I can extend plays with my legs. I’m not worried about that. Just becoming more accurate and doing the reads and (reading) the defense so I know where to go with the ball. I know that I can throw the ball with the best of them. It’s just a matter of showing it now.
Have you and Cameron discussed you not running as much?
Jennings: I didn’t really run that much in the bowl game. Just stand in the pocket, knowing where to sit, move, step up in the pocket. Those are going to come with time.
Has Cameron compared you to any NFL quarterback?
Jennings: Yeah, he’s coached Tyrod Taylor, Antwaan Randle El. Those kind of guys. He said those kind of guys kind of remind him of (me).
Do you fit those roles?
Jennings: I guess so. Tyrod Taylor can throw the ball with the best of them. He said Tyrod Taylor is a great quarterback. Antwaan Randle El is a great quarterback. I like those comparisons.
Was the Outback Bowl humbling after the success against Arkansas?
Jennings: Definitely. I always knew that if you win the game and you do well, the quarterback position, they’re going to praise you. If you don’t do well, they’re going to blame it on you. It’s just a matter of sticking in and don’t get to high and don’t get too low.
Has Mettenberger offered you advice?
Jennings: I’m still talking to him pretty much every week, seeing how things are going, doing those things. He just said, ‘It’s a grind. Becoming an LSU quarterback is one of the most prestigious positions in all of college football. You’ve got to do the right things even when no one’s looking.’
What do you need to do to win the starting quarterback job?
Jennings: Just do what I have been. Throw the ball well. All of the quarterbacks can do that. Separate myself (in) the film room and in the class room. Becoming a more student of the game.
You compare yourself a lot with Brandon Harris. How similar and dissimilar are you two?
Jennings: I think we’re two similar quarterbacks. He can run the ball just like I can. He can throw the ball with the best of them. What’s different right now, he doesn’t know as much as I do. That comes with time.
What did you do in the off-season?
Jennings: I just been doing a lot of drills, trying to hone in on my lower body strength to drive the ball more, become quicker in my thinking. Reading a lot of inspirational books of how to lead, a lot of autobiographies of who has led, who’s done it great. Trying to become a better leader first of all and become a better quarterback.
Have you gained arm strength?
Jennings: I think I’m driving the ball exponentially more than I did last year, in that last bowl game.
Mettenberger developed relationships with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Are you expecting to do the same with the new receivers?
Jennings: Jarvis and Odell had three quarterbacks. I think I can make that move with the receivers now and the receivers coming in with the freshman class.
What’s your relationship with the receivers now?
Jennings: It’s great. I talk to them every day. Try to get them up here, throwing extra, them and Cam. Trying to get better every day. That’s what we’re trying to do.
What was the reception after the Arkansas win and compare to the one you received after the Outback Bowl.
Jennings: Obviously, you win an SEC game in the last minute or so you’re going to get a lot of praise, but obviously it was still a win. Still a win in the bowl game, still a win in the Arkansas game. We wouldn’t have gotten to the Outback Bowl if we lost that Arkansas game. All of my teammates, they still believed in me. Nothing has changed. I don’t really give in to all of the outside talk. I don’t make any excuses nor do I take any from anybody else.
What have coaches told you guys about the quarterback competition?
Jennings: What they’ve said is, it’s a competition. You’ve got to come in and do your best. Right now, I’m taking the 1s. I’m just trying to keep that going and eventually become a starter, be named a starter.