As the hype builds for another LSU football season, there’s always the one big question mark holding Tiger fans back from proclaiming their team as true national championship contenders.
“Who’s going to play quarterback?”
The 2018 season is no different, although it does offer more possible solutions than most years. But even with four contenders this year—and a likely starter—there are still several unknowns.
The apparent frontrunner may be the candidate we know the least about: graduate transfer Joe Burrow.
Burrow announced May 8 he was leaving Ohio State and committed to LSU 10 days later. He officially arrived on campus in early June and has been working all summer to get up to swing with the offense and build a rapport with his receivers in summer drills.
“Every single day he’s just been working extra hard,” says junior wideout Jonathan Giles, who has emerged as the leader of the receivers. “He stays in the film room and watches extra film. He stays on the field; he stays in the weight room after hours. He’s a competitor. He loves to work, and I’m looking forward to seeing him in the fall.”
Burrow was highly respected in his time at Ohio State, but struggled to see the field in significant game action due to a crowded depth chart.
He impressed when he was able to play in a limited role the past two years, appearing in 10 games while completing 29 of 39 passes for 287 yards and 2 touchdowns. He added 53 yards and another touchdown on the ground in his time as a Buckeye and has already found ways to impress his new coaching staff before ever taking a snap in purple and gold.
“I talked to a lot of coaches who knew him, who recruited him, who watched him play,” says new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger. “They all say—and the same thing that shows up on the film and during his visit—that he’s a very mature young man. He’s a football-intelligent young man. I wouldn’t say he has an overly strong arm, but he’s very accurate and can anticipate throws. He brings a lot to the table.”
Before he was set back by a broken hand in 2017, many at Ohio State thought Burrow was on track to become the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes. Now the same sentiment is true in Baton Rouge.
Burrow won’t be handed the job, though. He’ll have to compete with a trio of signal-callers who have all been on campus for at least a full season.
Redshirt junior Justin McMillan is the oldest of the remaining quarterbacks, entering his fourth year in the program. He’s been a backup in his time at LSU, completing just one pass for 19 yards in 2016 and rushing for -1 yards in his one snap last season.
Sophomore Myles Brennan has the most in-game experience of the remaining quarterbacks, appearing in six games as a backup last season while completing 14 of 24 passes for 182 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.
Finally, there’s redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse, who arguably has the most upside of the other three quarterbacks on the roster. Narcisse was a highly touted dual-threat prospect coming out of St. James High School and oozes potential with his 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame.
It was initially thought the latter three would be in competition for the starting spot throughout fall camp, but the late addition of Burrow threw a wrench into the process.
There’s also some speculation that one or multiple of the remaining quarterbacks may transfer out of the program by the time the season opener rolls around.
Regardless of who winds up winning the job, Ensminger has made it abundantly clear what he’s looking for in his starter.
“There’s three things: It has to be consistency, it has to be decision making and it has to be explosive plays,” he says.
“What quarterback can be accurate? What quarterback is going to make the right decisions and not put us in a bad light? Decision making is really big. But the quarterback who can go out there with what we’re trying to do offensively and make explosive plays, he has a chance to be the quarterback.”
A quarterback controversy is nothing new to LSU. There always seems to be a pair of prospects competing for the job, and it’s been a rare occurrence for the Tigers to know who will be calling plays heading into fall camp.
Is this the year LSU’s quarterback question is finally answered?
This article was originally published in the Tiger Pride section of the August 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.
Click here to browse the rest of the special LSU section.