LSU and the Never-Ending Quest for Quality Quarterback play sounds like the title of a bad Dr. Seuss book turned movie that we’ve all watched many times over now. If we’re being honest, LSU QB play is straight-up nightmare fuel. The type of stuff that has driven lesser men to craven acts, like leaving at the beginning of the 4th quarter or following another team altogether.
Let’s face it, LSU’s QBs just aren’t a whole hell of a lot of fun to watch. When you cheerlead every modest performance as some type of corner-turning prophecy from God himself, you are living in a football hell. You are Sisyphus and LSU’s QBs are your proverbial rock.
But the world doesn’t stop just because things get shitty, and neither does LSU football. So onward we press in our search for what’s become the modern day unicorn, a QB that can provide LSU with sustainable, championship-level QB play. Not a guy who can show up and not screw up enough so the rest of the team can win. Mythology dictates that’s what Mauck and Flynn were, but the reality is far from that. The sooner LSU can find that guy, the soon they will return to the championship picture. Could that be Justin McMillan?
Texas High School football ranks somewhere above the MAC and below the Big 10 in terms of overall following. Hell, the 6A championships put 50,000+ folks in Jerry World this season. Yes, the same number that show up when Miami plays anyone of import were there to watch small-town Texas team 1 play small town Texas team 2 in a monstrosity of an arena right there in the home of the Arlington Cowboys. It’s an insane, money-driven monster of a culture that’s inspired a couple movies, a great TV series and a religious following unseen this side of Mecca.
In that environment, Justin McMillan was fostered. McMillan spent the past couple of seasons helming Cedar Hill High School in Texas. A 6A power themselves, they regularly churn out D1 products, and 2014 proved no different with McMillan himself as well as superstar WR and Ole Miss signee Demarkus Lodge. The team claimed the title in 2013 and were hungry to do so again in 2014. McMillan proved a major part of that success.
As a QB he didn’t blow the doors off anyone, even with a superstar WR. Don't get me wrong, his numbers are strong. He threw 37 TDs this year to just 4 INTs. He ran in another 6. Perhaps more importantly he served as a team leader with championship experience.
To understand Justin McMillan, you must understand this spotlight. He’s a player accustomed to high-pressure, meaningful games. He’s accustomed to unreasonable expectations from demanding fans. So when he showed up to LSU camp last summer and was prodded by Cameron, he responded. McMillan wasn’t heavily recruited at the time, and looking to make a name for himself. Cameron pushed him, pulling him aside post practice and making him display his ability to make every throw. Deep out, skinny post, go… show us what you got kid.
A couple hours later, Justin McMillan headed home an LSU commit. It was surprising to most. It seemed realistic, at the time, that perhaps the staff was trying to win favor with stud WR DeMarkus Lodge, though it never materialized. Yet, LSU stayed true to McMillan despite other offers never materializing and him really distinguishing himself as a top-tier Division I QB prospect.
Whether or not his recruiting interest would have risen had he maintained a more open process remains to be seen, though it’s interesting that few schools ever seemed to come calling. McMillan never so much as took a visit to anywhere but LSU and stayed firm all the way up until he signed his Financial Agreement papers and enrolled early at LSU.
McMillan is ranked as a 3-star in the 247 composite with a .8267 rating.
Tale of the Tape
Weight: 190 lbs.
The LSU website lists him at 6’2", and it’s probably being generous. He just seems slight to me. Though he’s proud to say how he is 6’2".
Strengths: Touch, Athleticism
Weaknesses: Throwing Motion, Ugly Ball, Shotgun Only, Arm Strength
Touch: At :42 you can see he's got a really good feel in the passing game and knows how to adjust the loft on his throws for good placement. 1:30 is another nice throw on an out, getting it out in front of his receiver and allowing him to run to it. Check the throw at 3:14, which is probably the best on the reel. I like the throw at 4:53 as well.
Athleticism: There are clips interspersed throughout, but at 1:35 may be the best example. I'm not sure he's a burner in the open field, but he's quick in short space and can make defenders miss. That's not a skill that's optimized in the current LSU offense, but he does give some potential when the pocket breaks down and for some of the QB runs we've slowly seen more incorporated into the offense.
Throwing Motion: He's got a bit of a baseball throw to his motion. It's a long, looping motion that will need to be tightened at the next level.
Ugly Ball: Every QB should throw a ball with a bit of a wobble. It makes for a more catchable ball. You do see that some with McMillan, but more troubling to me is that his ball tends to flutter. 3:02 is the best, up close example. You can see the awkward rotation and the ball fluttering through the air, though it winds up going for a TD. The flutter is key, because its detrimental to accuracy. A QB who throws a ball that flutters can't get the ball to go where he wants it to go.
Shotgun Only: This isn't the death of any QB, but worth noting he will need to adjust to being a QB under center to play at LSU.
Arm Strength: Not a huge natural thrower. He can get it downfield, but needs to get his whole body into the throw. ON his shorter throws, I don't see tremendous zip. He's adequate, but not great.
Can McMillan ever become the starting QB at LSU? Well, he’s got a lot working against him. Namely, Brandon Harris and, soon to be, Feleipe Franks, both players with vastly more physical talent than him. That’s not to say McMillan isn’t talented. In the Spring Game, he made a beautiful toss down the seam for a huge TD that I think was his way of saying, "I’m here" to everyone.
His tape looks like a mixed bag to me. Some throws stand out and make you think he's got real potential. Other times he looks like a quality HS QB without much ceiling. He's athletic and can scramble some, but that's not an ideal fit for the offense we run. Cam saw him up close and personal and believed in him. He makes millions to make those calls, so trust who you want.
I think he’s a kid that likes a challenge, and for that reason, I’ll always be rooting for him. Chances are high that he will take a RS in 2015, even with Anthony Jennings’ pending suspension and the presence of only two "real" QBs on LSU’s roster. But realistically, can you see him overtaking Harris in the next two to three years? In two to three seasons, can you realistically see him starting over Franks? Especially now that Etling is in the mix, where do you see a crack for McMillan to play?
That reality puts McMillan into the role of a "quality hand." He’s solid depth, and the type of player the coaches know will work hard, be a model citizen and push guys like Harris and Franks to work hard and truly earn their roles, lest they lose them to a lesser talented player. McMillan is a guy I could see starting for LSU in a pinch, due to injury or suspension. But it’s hard for me to envision him ever ascending to being "the guy" for LSU. But that’s exactly where Justin McMillan likes to be, in a position to prove everyone wrong.
High End: Rotational QB starter
Low End: Transfer to Smaller Program
Realistic: 2nd string QB and club house leader