Finding a reliable starting quarterback in college football is a little like seeing a shooting star. For what seem like a few brief moments, it’s a beautiful sight. “Finally,” you exalt, “our team has an answer!” Then, as the shooting star disintegrates in the atmosphere, your solution disappears. Sometimes, no help is in sight.
Here we are again, looking for quarterback answers in July.
At Louisiana State University, quarterbacks have been slim pickings in recent memory. The days of JaMarcus Russell’s Heisman and Matt Flynn’s NCAA Championship are a faint memory. The Jarrett Lee/Jordan Jefferson years were built under the philosophy “run as much as possible, just try not to throw the ball.” There were the Zach Mettenberger years, and then the Anthony Jennings-Brandon Harris experiment flopped. Eventually, enough was enough, and years of being “not quite good enough” cost LSU legend Les Miles his coaching job.
Now, it’s the Coach Ed Orgeron show in Baton Rouge. In his first full season last year, LSU went 9-4, finished 17th in the nation, but lost their bowl game to Notre Dame 21-17.
Danny Etling, the former Purdue transfer, shined in his final year at LSU, finishing 13th in the nation in passing efficiency and averaged 14.9 yards per completion; that ranked 6th in the country. His 16:2 touchdown to interception ratio will be missed in Tiger Stadium.
Just like that shooting star, the 2018 seventh-round NFL pick of the New England Patriots is gone.
“If we had one quarterback… We would have named one.”
Following LSU’s 2018 spring game, Orgeron said that despite the three quarterbacks who participated, none was a clear front-runner for a starting job yet, according to The Times-Picayune.
Redshirt junior Justin McMillan started the spring game and amassed 182 yards and one touchdown on passing; he also ran nine times for 69 yards. Lowell Narcisse played well, throwing for 205 yards and a touchdown, albeit a 94-yard catch-and-run. Myles Brennan was 11-for-21 for 125 yards, one touchdown, but did toss the lone LSU interception.
All told, the three LSU quarterbacks completed 30-of-61 passes that day. Not going to cut it in the SEC.
Orgeron added, “We have some guys that, as you saw tonight under the lights, Justin played better than the other quarterbacks. That’s a fact. But the quarterback competition will stay open through camp.” Finding that one guy will take time, but it’s one player who didn’t participate in spring practice or the spring game who is already grabbing Orgeron, and the LSU staff’s, attention.
Meet Joe Burrow, Graduate Transfer
In three years at Ohio State, the former four-star, pro-style quarterback appeared in 10 games, none of which were under meaningful circumstances. Burrow did, however, throw for 287 yards, two touchdowns, and complete 74.4 percent of his passes when called into action.
Buried behind J.T. Barrett and Dwayne Haskins on the depth chart, Burrow decided to take his two remaining years of eligibility on the road. He seems to have found a home at LSU.
“The guys are competing more in the weight room, competing more when they’re running,” Orgeron told NOLA.com. “I think that he’s [Burrow] going to bring a tremendous amount of leadership and competition to our team.”
“He’s a football junkie,” LSU Offensive Coordinator Steve Ensminger said of Burrow. “For that young man, in 2018, to want to be in that office as much as you, is a big deal.”
As a senior in high school, Burrow threw for almost 4,500 yards and 63 touchdowns on his way to being named Ohio Mr. Football and being named to the All-State team for the second year in a row. His 11,428 career passing yards rank fourth all-time in Ohio high school football history.
It’s open season on quarterbacks in Baton Rouge, but all eyes will be locked in on Joe Burrow when the LSU Tigers open training in August.