Can Anthony Jennings be LSU’s No. 1 quarterback?

Sophomore-to-be Anthony Jennings, LSU’s No. 1 quarterback for now, opened up last week in his most extended time with reporters since arriving on campus, discussing his performance in the Outback Bowl; his growing leadership capabilities; the competition between him, Brandon Harris and Hayden Rettig; and his maturing football IQ and stronger arm.

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 (Les) Miles is still the head coach. Think we’re still going to run the ball.

After your Outback Bowl performance (7-for-19 for 82 yards and one interception/one 2-yard touchdown run in a 21-14 win), 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.

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.

Has former QB Zach 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 classroom. Becoming a more student of the game.

What did you do in the offseason?

Jennings: I’ve 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.

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 anything 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 (first-team snaps). I’m just trying to keep that going and eventually become a starter, be named a starter.