THIBODAUX – Brandon Harris has watched enough tape to know that he wasn’t tough enough during LSU’s 9-3 season last year.
He’s watched enough tape, he said, to know that he wasn’t good enough either.
“I take full responsibility for last year,” he said. “I was terrible. I was straight-out bad. I’m telling you right now, people can sleep if they want to about this season, but we’ll see who gets the last laugh.”
Harris spoke to reporters for 30 minutes Friday during Day 2 of the Manning Passing Academy at Nicholls State. He joins more than 30 other college quarterbacks this weekend at the camp, mentoring high school and youth players while also learning from each other and competing in a skills challenge Saturday.
Brandon Harris speaking with reporters on Friday.
This is a respite for Harris, a break from LSU’s grueling summer workouts, an avenue, also, for him to vent about a 2015 season that irked him.
Surrounded by reporters Friday, Harris discussed his weight, the woes of last year and the hurdles of 2016 – while also oozing his usual confidence.
“I really do feel like I have the best arm in college football and got the best team in college football,” he said. “I get it all of the time. ‘Can you throw?’ I just look at it and laugh at it. As we continue to grow as a team, we’ll get the last laugh.”
Q: How’s the Manning camp so far?
Harris: It’s a really unique thing getting an opportunity to come here. First time seeing Peyton and Eli in person. Two great guys that have been very positive so far, very up-lifting.
Q: How cool is it to be alongside Super Bowl champs and MVPs?
Harris: It’s really unique. We like to think as quarterbacks in college that they’re on a pedestal and they’re different, but they are just two normal guys like everybody sitting here. Two guys who have accomplished things that every kid that played quarterback grows up dreaming about.
Q: Did you have any experience with this camp?
Harris: No, I wasn’t familiar with it. I get a call from Archie Manning (in May). I’m still shocked about that. He asked me to be a part of this. I didn’t hesitate. I said, ‘Absolutely. When do I come? When do I show up?’ Their whole family has been first class.
Q: Did you believe it was him when Archie called you?
Harris: First of all, if I don’t have the number saved on my phone, I normally don’t answer the phone, but since it was a 504 area code, I said, ‘Maybe I should answer the phone.’ I answered it, and he said, ‘Hey, this is Archie. I want you to come to the camp.’
Any time something like this is being hosted in your backyard, it’s a great opportunity for you to come.
Q: How ready are you for tomorrow’s passing competition between the college quarterbacks?
Harris: I’m not overly dramatic about it. It’s a competition. Any time I’m able to compete, I take advantage of it. It’s not something going to make or break me. I’m more so trying to take more out of these passing things we have, later in the day, and all of these opportunities we have to throw with the Mannings and throw with these other quarterbacks. Watch those guys and apply it to my game.
Q: How excited are you to get back on the field?
Harris: The thing is, we’ve been working our tail off. Got a great freshman class. This year we’ve got a (big) senior class. That hasn’t (been the case) the last decade or so. Great senior group, a lot of leadership over there.
We’re all just working hard, in the weight room trying to get bigger, stronger and faster. I like our team right now, like the leadership we’ve exhibited during voluntary 7-on-7s, which are mandatory as far as players. We make those mandatory. Our receivers are working their tails off. Our running backs are doing a great job.
We’re coming together man. We’re gelling at the right moment. We understand the team we can be if we just stay the course.
Q: You’re the older guy now. What’s it like for you to try to take a leadership role?
Harris: First of all, after a year being a starting quarterback, now you’re going into your second year, you understand the speed, you know how to get your body where it needs to be. I’ve gained 10 pounds since last season, just body structure and body mass.
Hopefully I’ll go into the season at 222 and hopefully sustain it through the course of the season and stay healthy.
Brandon Harris enters Season 3 with the Tigers. (HILARY SCHEINUK)
Main thing is leading. We lost games last year. I’ve got to do a better job of grasping our team. I think I’m doing that. I’m taking a bigger role this off-season. Now, I can be the guy. Guys look at you. They played with you last season. They know what to expect. They know what their expectations are. My confidence is really high.
Q: High much do articles written about you motivate you?
Harris: I hear it all of the time. The majority of people don’t know what they’re talking about. I really do feel like I have the best arm in college football and got the best team in college football.
I get it all of the time. ‘Can you throw?’ I just look at it and laugh at it. As we continue to grow as a team, we’ll get the last laugh.
Q: You thought about playing at Lambeau Field?
Harris: That’s exciting. I would freak out even more if Aaron Rodgers (is there). If Aaron Rodgers gets to come to the field, it’s even more exciting. I’m just excited to play at that field. It’s one of the best venues in all of sports. You know the history of that team and what Lambeau Field means to the NFL. It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to it.
Q: You say you weigh 222? That’s getting close to Leonard’s weight.
Harris: I was just joking with Leonard. Leonard was 228 the other day, but he can jump up (in weight quickly). I say, ‘Hey man, I’m almost to you.’ He laughed it off. Leonard, he’s a freak. Nice-looking guy. I think everybody is just excited. The summer is the toughest grind. It’s the hardest part.
Q: Excluding the mid-year enrollees, who of the freshman class has stood out?
Harris: I’m impressed with all of them. Drake Davis is a freak. He’s 6-4 and runs a 4.3, a guy who I think is going to help us a lot this year in different roles – special teams, wide receiver, anything.
I’m impressed with those DBs. Our defensive tackle from Neville (Rashard Lawrence), I’m very impressed with him as a leader. Great guy. (Quarterback) Lindsey Scott, he’s leading that group of freshman. Getting to class on time, getting to breakfast in the morning. I’m very impressed with those guys.
Q: You and Lindsey are close right?
Harris: Lindsey is like a sponge, man. He wants to know a lot of information. I’m very impressed with how he’s picking up the offense. I think he’ll be a great quarterback in years to come at LSU.
Brandon Harris appears to have a comfy lead in the QB race heading into preseason camp. (Travis Spradling)
Q: What’s your daily schedule like in the summer?
Harris: (I do) stuff in the morning with ESPN (radio). That’s an internship. Then I go class. I have one class on campus and the other is online. 11 o’clock, it’s workouts and, in the afternoon, I spend a lot of time on football. A lot of time on football. That’s where we watch film with receivers, which is something he try to hone in this year. Obviously school work.
Q: You already studying opponents?
Harris: Our defensive coordinator came from Wisconsin, if that helps indicate anything.
Q: How has he helped?
Harris: Coach (Dave) Aranda, he’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve met. Really, he’s somebody you sit down and talk to and some things he’ll tell you will kind of screw you up a little bit because he’s so smart. He’s a guy who I really think is going to enhance my game and take me to the next step. He’s been around and seen different types offenses. I think he’s one of the brilliant minds in college football, if not one of the top defensive coordinators in the country.
Q: How much has he told you about Wisconsin’s defense?
Harris: If I told that, I’d be giving our game plan away.
Q: Will they be similar to the one he coached?
Harris: If I told, you’d be given our game plan away. They’re Wisconsin, one of the most well-coached teams in the country. They’re not going to do things to beat themselves. That game is a ways away. We’re not ready to play Wisconsin tomorrow, but come the day we get ready to play Wisconsin, we’ll be ready.
Q: What’s the immediate focus and goals for you this summer?
Harris: Summer goals are to get through our installs we have, be focused, take it one day at a time and get ready for a good team (in Wisconsin). We continue to grow our leadership.
Q: What’s the toughest thing about strength coach Tommy Moffitt’s summer workouts?
Harris: We have to go run sprints and stuff like that before we even go into the weight room. He’s tough but has high expectations for us and asks a lot out of us.
Q: What did you think of the NBA finals?
Harris: I rooted for the Warriors because I like Steph Curry. I think he’s just different. LeBron to bring a championship back to Cleveland … that’s a storybook ending.
Q: After what Leonard did last year, you know that teams are going to gang up on him. You kind of embrace the fact you’ll be the other option?
Harris: Regardless of what anybody says, Leonard is going to get the ball because he’s a great player. That’s understandable. Obviously, we’ve got to do things better to execute in our passing game as far as hitting throws that need to be hit.
Our receivers will tell you they want to catch every ball. I want to make every throw. The line wants to pick up every pass protection. The thing is, I feel like we were balanced (last year), but if we execute early on, we’ll be unstoppable. You just got to control the things you can control. That’s by executing what’s being called.
Q: How much did that sports hernia bother you last year? (he had surgery
Harris: I’m fine man. I’m all good. It’s a problem we had to get taken care of. You guys know you’ve got to control your health and be smart when you’re in different situations and report things when you have some discomfort.
Q: Are you now more aware of maintaining your body?
Harris: That’s the thing and a reason why I’m coming into the season bigger. If you play at 210, you drop to 205 over the season. It’s hard to maintain that weight because you’re taking licks and shots. I’m trying to come into camp at 225 and probably drop to 220 opening day. That way you’re able to run the ball, be able to be an opposing threat rather than a fragile guy in the backfield.
That’s the biggest thing – you’re not able to work out as much as you are (in the off-season). I’ve been asking all of these quarterbacks, ‘What’s been the biggest thing for you?’ It’s the same thing – all of them dropping weight. You’re saying, ‘Hey guys, what are you guys doing to keep your weight on?’ None of us are working out like we are in the summer during the season.
Q: This will be the first year you’ll go into the season as the starter. Are you recognized more, like around campus or wherever?
Harris: It’s been that way since I came to LSU. I was … I don’t know … you know how it is, when you’re the guy coming in. Zach (Mettenberger) was leaving. I came in with that 2014 class, really special. You know that now because I think we have, like, 16 people projected in the first through third rounds (of the NFL draft). You kind of know now, that class is so special. It’s always been that way. I was the quarterback of that class coming in.
Q: What are some things yall have improved on as far as the passing game goes?
Harris: I think we’ve always been able to pass the ball. If you’re the head coach, you give the ball to Leonard, too, because Leonard is good.
I think we’ve been very balanced over the last couple of years. It’s just about execution. But to answer your question, our receivers are catching the ball very well. They’ll tell you the same thing. I’ve been very impressed with the maturation process of the freshmen we brought in. I think they’ve really adapted to the older guys in that room. I look forward to this upcoming season. We’re going to light it up this year. I really think so.
Q: How about your maturation?
Harris: Guys are starting to respond. I’m leading the guys. Guys are buying in. More so, speaking up, you’ve got a year under your belt. Guys are just starting to respect you because they know … you look at every guy’s eyes and they’re looking at your eyes and they understand they’re getting the play call from you.
It’s a neat feeling. It’s giving me chills every time I think about it and think about what this season is going to mean and how special it’s going to be.
Q: What about the impact of Dameyune Craig?
Harris: I love that dude to death. He’s been honest with me. Talking about a dude who can still throw the ball. He thinks he can still throw better than me. I try to tell him all of the time … he thinks he can get me on distance and all of this stuff. He can spin it. He can spin it.
Q: He recruited you at Auburn right:?
Harris: Yes he did. He said … one of the reasons he came to LSU – it was a good reason – because of me. He knew the talent I had. I’m honored for him to be on our side. He’s a dude that can still play.
Q: What’s been his biggest impact on you?
Harris: He knows what it’s like. When he feels like I’m not doing something right, he calls me out on it. He calls me out on it in front of anybody. He doesn’t sugar coat anything – he calls you out.
Biggest impact he’s had on me is mechanics, throwing the ball with touch and maturation process.
Q: When he recruited you, did he mention that he’s a better passer than you?
Harris: Nah. The man can spin it, I can tell you that much. I don’t think he thinks he can throw it better than me. I think he thinks he’s still got it. I tell him every day, ‘Whenever you want to go out there and test me, I’m open for it.’
Q: Y’all haven’t competed?
Harris: He wanted to do it in Shreveport (at the satellite camp), but the ball was apparently too wet.
Q: Is the preparation any different than last summer?
Harris: I think more so … got a year under your belt (as a starter). You know the offense now, understand things you need to do to accomplish and what the expectations are. My expectations are probably higher than any guy in this room. Every time I touch the field, I expect to be the best, and I think I am the best. That’s the mindset you’ve got to have.
I tell everybody quarterback, I don’t care if you’re small, big, tall, anything. If you’re not carrying confidence, pretty much can’t do what you’ve set out to be. Got to stay confident.
Q: How much easier is the game now than two years ago?
Harris: You’ll probably see when we play Wisconsin. I think it’s going to be easier.
Our defensive coordinator, he throws a lot of different things at you as a quarterback. If you’re able to grasp those things and handle those things, you can be where you want to be.
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