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LSU spring game: What we learned

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris didn't necessarily dominate LSU's spring game on Saturday, but the quarterbacks' improved performances this spring at least left Tigers coach Les Miles' "much more confident" in what they can accomplish this fall.

Harris probably made more flashy plays on Saturday, but both quarterbacks looked more composed than they did when we last saw them perform in a real game.

"If you go back to the last spring game, I had a pit in my stomach that I just really needed to have our quarterbacks play positively," Miles said. "Now I'm sitting there looking at our corners and thinking, ‘Geez, let's not torch that kid. Let's not take advantage of him.' It's a completely different feeling for me."

Both players did some torching -- particularly when they worked with the starting offense on the White team, which won 45-6 over the reserves on Team Purple. The quarterback split time between the two teams, but working exclusively with the first-teamers, Harris finished 7-for-7 for 141 yards and two touchdowns and Jennings was 8-for-14 for 215 yards and two scores.

"Brandon and Anthony, they competed today," running back Leonard Fournette said. "That's going to be a hard decision, man, because they both did a tremendous job this spring."

The quarterback competition was the story of the spring and it will be the story of LSU's offseason, as Miles said he's "going to defer and let the competition play out." But the QB battle is only one of the key storylines from Saturday's game. Let's take a look at five things we learned:

QBs both look better: Combining their totals from reps with both squads, Harris was 11-for-17 for 178 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and Jennings was 13-for-20 for 242 yards and two scores.

Jennings still made a few shaky throws, but nowhere near as many as in the average LSU game last season -- or even in last year's spring game, when he had two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

"Obviously I threw a couple touchdowns, got the team into the end zone and didn't turn the ball over and kept my poise," Jennings said. "Just keeping the ball away from the defense is a huge thing in real games to win those games, and I'm excited to put the ball in the playmakers' hands."

Harris probably accounted for more flashy plays, but was also responsible for the game's lone turnover -- a second-half interception made by early enrollee Kevin Toliver. He made several pretty throws, including a 35-yard touchdown to Malachi Dupre, a 41-yard scoring pass to Travin Dural and a 45-yard hookup in double coverage to D.J. Chark.

"I think it went really well," Harris said. "I think we got the opportunity to show what we're capable of being offensively. I think that was the overall message that we wanted to come out with this spring."

Huge gap between starters, reserves: Clearly there is a sizable gap between LSU's starters and its reserves. In the first half alone -- before the Tigers rotated more inexperienced players and walk-ons into the game in the second half -- the starting offense outgained the reserves 366 yards to 69.

The starting defense allowed just 2.7 yards per play in the first half, sacked the quarterback four times and had six tackles for loss. Conversely, the starting offense averaged 11.1 yards per play before halftime and converted five of seven third downs.

"The reason that we did it this way is we want to see that defensive line on the second team line up against our first offensive line and see how they match up, and see how they continued to match up throughout the day. That's important to us," Miles said. "We needed to get a great feel. That's one of the key pieces of the spring game. Would I have thought that that would happen? Probably."

Big day for receivers: Dural (four catches for 127 yards and touchdowns of 41 and 8 yards) and Dupre (4-112, TDs of 37 and 35 yards) were the offensive stars of the day, continuing a spring where a young receiving corps reportedly made significant progress.

Chark -- a breakout performer this spring -- made two catches for 53 yards, and John Diarse led the Purple team with four catches for 27 yards.

"We've just got to get the ball in the playmakers' hands. It's simple," Jennings said. "Those guys are going to make plays for you. They're here for a reason. So they're continuing to improve. It gives them confidence when they make plays like that and when you know you can throw it up to them and they make those catches, it's easy for the quarterback."

Strong debut for Steele's defense: He definitely kept things vanilla on Saturday, but new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele had to like the way his starters performed.

The White allowed just 91 yards of total offense on 40 plays and did not surrender a point until early enrollee David Ducre bulled into the end zone for a 2-yard score on the game's final play.

The transition from John Chavis to Steele will remain one of the big stories to watch, but so far so good.

"Everything's been the same," said safety Jamal Adams. "Coach Steele came in and he just added fire to the gun, really. He came out here and he's more aggressive. It's the same defense."

Added Miles: "Steele's really added to the scheme some. And now today's spring game was not an example of that, but so be it. I think our guys enjoy his coaching and I think the transition there has been very good."

Tight ends active in passing game: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said his tight ends had been more active as receivers this spring, and it continued on Saturday.

The group combined for five catches and 109 receiving yards, led by DeSean Smith's two grabs for 62 yards -- including a 50-yard touchdown from early enrollee Justin McMillan early in the third quarter.