One of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the class of 2014 could be headed to the SEC.
Brandon Harris, a 6'3", 186-pounder from Parkway High School in Bossier City, La., visited Auburn on Thursday and came away very impressed, according to Justin Hokanson of AuburnSports.com:
My overall impression, I was really impressed. I thought all the questions were answered as far as quarterback situation. When you've taken the steps they've taken to make sure I'm their number one guy, that means a lot to me.
Auburn really stands out to me today and a lot was said that I liked. I feel confident walking away from here today.
Harris is a 4-star prospect, according to Rivals.com, and is ranked as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the country. He threw for 2,573 yards, 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a junior last season; and added 667 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. He has narrowed his choices down to Auburn, LSU and Ohio State, and will make his decision on July 18.
He'd be a perfect fit for Auburn and head coach Gus Malzahn's hurry-up, no-huddle system.
Malzahn's offense is a downhill, run-based attack out of the spread. It doesn't necessarily require a dual-threat quarterback to be successful, but we saw just how successful it can be with a high-quality signal-caller when Cam Newton set what was, at the time, the SEC's single-season total-offense record in 2010 (4,327 yards).
Is Harris anywhere close to Newton?
Of course not, although he admits that there are similarities, according to Hokanson:
I feel like we're similar. Of course I'm 6-foot-3, and he's 6-foot-6 and he's got 60 pounds on me -- we're similar though. I feel like I throw the ball better than anyone in my class. I have the best arm in the class. As far as athleticism, I feel like I'm the best athlete and I throw more than I run it.
Well, he's certainly not lacking confidence.
He has the arm strength and the accuracy to be successful in LSU's pro-style offense, and playing in his home state would certainly be appealing. But one dimension of his game would be more absent than it would be in Auburn or at Ohio State.
His system at Parkway is very similar to Malzahn's.
In the play above, Harris fakes the read-option and the end around to find a wide receiver wide open downfield for a touchdown.
This is very similar to a play Malzahn runs at Auburn.
To keep up with the Newton comparisons, here's Newton running something similar that went for a big gain on Auburn's first drive of the 2010 SEC Championship Game.
Comfort is key, and Harris would be comfortable with Malzahn's playbook.
When Malzahn has full control of his offense, quarterbacks thrive.
David Johnson (4,059 passing yards in 2008) and Paul Smith (5,065 in 2007) each lit up opponents at Tulsa when Malzahn was offensive coordinator, Chris Todd tossed 22 touchdowns and only six picks in Malzahn's first season as offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2009, and Newton won the Heisman in 2010.
Barrett Trotter threw nine touchdowns and five picks 2011 before he was benched—a move that reportedly coincided with former head coach Gene Chizik urging Malzahn to slow his system to protect the defense, according to Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com.
Looking at his film above, it's no wonder he's Auburn's No. 1 player, as he claims. He has big-time arm strength, a frame that he can grow into to make him a short-yardage threat, and breakaway speed to make him dangerous in space.
Auburn's four-man quarterback battle this summer features juniors Kiehl Frazier and Nick Marshall, sophomore Jonathan Wallace and freshman Jeremy Johnson. The potential logjam at quarterback doesn't scare Harris, even though it's more likely for him to start right away at LSU after Zach Mettenberger moves on.
"If I said I didn't want to come to Auburn because they have Johnson, Marshall, Kiehl Frazier, then don't recruit me because I'm your wrong guy," Harris told Hokanson. "When I come here, I'm not coming to redshirt, I want to play right away."
Note that he said "when," not "if."
Harris is going to be successful wherever he goes, and joining forces with Malzahn would be quite intriguing.