BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU coach Les Miles said he might not announce a starting quarterback in advance of the 20th-ranked Tigers’ Southeastern Conference opener against Mississippi State.
When Miles spoke on Monday, he said he had not had a chance to discuss his plans for the quarterback position with his players, and therefore was not ready to discuss it publicly.
Miles suggested he might be “more forthcoming,” after discussing the situation with his team, but wasn’t promising anything.
Danny Etling, a junior transfer from Purdue who relieved Harris two series into last Saturday night’s game against Jacksonville State, put himself in the mix by leading four touchdown drives in a 34-13 victory.
He did so without the benefit of having star running back Leonard Fournette in the backfield. Fournette was given the night off to rest his bruised left ankle, and Derrius Guice was elevated to starter, backed up by Darrel Williams. But Miles said he expects Fournette to be available against the Bulldogs this Saturday night in Death Valley.
“He’ll practice at least three days this week,” Miles said. “We used running back-by-committee with Leonard missing the (last) game. That kept Derrius fresh and kept Darrel Williams fresh. We are real fortunate to have quality backs without Leonard.”
Even without Fournette, LSU’s tailbacks accounted for 220 rushing yards against Jacksonville State. Guice, whose 155 yards were six yards shy of his career high, averaged more than 8 yards per attempt. Williams and Nick Brossette combined for 64 yards on eight carries — an 8-yard average.
Their performance gave Etling the support he needed when his performance — which began with a flourish — tapered off in the second half.
Etling was 6-of-8 for 100 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter last Saturday. However, he was 0-for-6 with an interception and a lost fumble in the second half.
“Danny is the kind of guy who really prepares. He was in the building on Sunday watching film. Danny had great weeks of preparation going into the season. As he approached game week, he performed particularly well.”
Miles stressed that he is not ready to disregard using Harris. According to Miles, Harris will still play a huge role in this season.
“We need both quarterbacks,” Miles said. “We are not turning our back in any way at the competition at that position. Getting a respite from being the starting quarterback and its pressures can help Brandon. He can step back and take a deep breath. Let’s not turn a blind eye to a very talented player.”
In a season-opening loss against Wisconsin, Harris performed poorly as his day ended with an interception while the Tigers were driving into position for a game-winning field goal attempt.
Last Saturday night, Harris completed one of four passes for 8 yards on two possessions — neither of which produced a first down, never mind points.
“We needed a little pick me up and we put Danny in,” Miles said, adding that he won’t hesitate to change quarterbacks again if the offense is sluggish out of the gate.
“We have no first-quarter points this year,” Miles said. “Whoever is taking the first snap, we need a fast start.”
Miles also noted that he thought LSU’s offensive line, which struggled against Wisconsin, “played better and I think they will play better. We have six or seven guys who can really play.”
Right guard Josh Boutte, who started the Wisconsin game but was suspended for a flagrant foul at the end of that game, will be back in uniform against Mississippi State.
Against Jacksonville State, Maea Teuhema replaced Boutte, but Miles did not indicate who will start this week.
Online: AP College Football website www.collegefootball.ap.org