QB battle, missing players headline start of LSU camp

LSU and coach Les Miles enter preseason camp Monday with no deadline to name a starting quarterback — and missing two players.

On the eve of the opening day of practice, Miles said Sunday that quarterbacks Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings could compete until the first game week arrives. Meanwhile, the team will open drills Monday morning without safety Jalen Mills and defensive tackle signee Travonte Valentine.

Mills, indefinitely suspended after his arrest earlier this summer for second-degree battery, awaits a decision on charges from East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore. Valentine has not been cleared by the NCAA clearinghouse, and Miles is unsure when or if that will happen.

The coach addressed reporters Sunday afternoon after his players reported to camp at the West Campus Apartments, each checking in and receiving their housing information. During preseason camp, most players will stay in the West Campus Apartments.

Harris, the heralded freshman quarterback from Parkway High, arrived midway through the four-hour reporting portion. Always affable, Harris smiled for a crew of camera-toting reporters outside the apartments.

Harris is locked in what appears to be a tight competition with sophomore Anthony Jennings, both aiming to replace Zach Mettenberger. It could be a long battle.

Miles has set no deadline. LSU meets Wisconsin on Aug. 30 in Houston to open the season.

“Never. I never have, never will,” he said of imposing a deadline. “We’ll have to see how each day … how they proceed and how things go.”

Miles suggested that the QB who makes the most plays will win the job.

“It’s going to be that time in the game where you have the opportunity to extend a play and make a play and therein itself interpretation at one point in time will be, in my opinion, the criteria by which you’ll pick the starter,” he said.

Got it? Good.

LSU will split into two groups of the first four practices of camp, Monday through Thursday. The veterans will practice in the morning while the freshmen and selected veterans will go in the afternoon.

Harris and Jennings will not practice together the first four days. They will rotate between morning and afternoon sessions, Miles said. Some freshmen are expected to practice in the morning with veterans.

The QB battle isn’t the only one that’ll unfold.

Hoko Fanaika and Evan Washington are competing at right guard, and the two safety spots seem to be up for grabs. Same goes with the receivers.

“Competition here is when you struggle, then you raise your level of play,” Miles said. “There will be competition, and we’ll have to see who raises their level of play.”

At right guard, Miles said, he “can’t imagine that both guys won’t play significant football.” He said later that one player could separate himself.

Absent Monday will be Mills, Valentine and freshman defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao. Lealaimatafao will not participate in fall camp.

Miles said last week that Lealaimatafao will “probably not” play this season after punching through a glass window earlier this summer.

Miles did not have an update on Mills, expected to start at safety.

“I have not tried to nor do I intend to pressure the process in any way,” Miles said. “Jalen Mills has a responsibility to handle his business.”

Miles mentioned Ronald Martin, Rickey Jefferson, Corey Thompson and freshmen John Battle and Jamal Adams as possibilities at the position. Miles said he “hopes” the veteran safeties will play with more confidence this season.

As for Valentine, Miles said LSU and his Florida high school are in regular communication. Valentine, a four-star prospect, is awaiting clearance from the NCAA clearinghouse on his eligibility.

“The reality is the high school and the clearinghouse have to communicate,” Miles said. “I think they’re doing that, think they’re trying.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv. For more coverage of LSU football, follow our Tiger Tracks blog.