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Danny Against the World: Run, Danny, Run

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Danny Etling Against the Best Defense in the Land

Alabama v LSU Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There has been a lot of talk about whether Danny Etling should be LSU’s starting quarterback next season. I don’t think it’s a question. He’s the best quarterback on the roster and I can say that even having never seen Lowell Narcisse or Myles Brennan in a Tigers jersey. Danny makes great reads which makes up for his lack of arm strength and athleticism. We already know Brandon Harris can’t make good reads (nor throw accurate balls) and the chances that a freshman could come in as a better quarterback than Etling is very slim.

A lot of the anti- Danny talk has been centered around his game against Alabama in November. I contend that his lack of success was more about him being pressured very often and Alabama being able to lock down receivers rather than anything Danny did. There was about 4 really bad throws out of about 28 dropbacks. I broke the film down, first by the times Alabama got to Danny before he had a chance to make a play, second by when the Alabama coverage was superb, third, all his good throws and, fourth, all his bad throws. When you get past the first two categories, there aren’t a lot of throws left to break down.

Parties at the Quarterback

Long 3rd down. Colin Jeter and KJ Malone get exposed right off the snap. Could Danny throw that slant to Dural before the safety gets there? In pass shell, ya, but not when he’s staring at Tim Williams destroy his tackle before he’s ready to throw.

Even though this is a completion, you can see the pressure in Danny’s face. Again, Ryan Anderson destroys Jeter but the problem is the inside pressure from Dalvin Tomlinson. These aren’t blitzes or pressures or anything like that. These are guys winning battles man on man with ease. You see Danny has to immediately move to his right when he gets to the top of his drop and then he has to almost hop into his throw (there’s a split second where both feet are off the ground) instead of stepping into it.


I think Alabama is playing a little scrape-exchange game here with Tomlinson and Reuben Foster. Weathersby doesn’t come off of Tomlinson in time and Foster has a free path to the QB right when Etling turns his head downfield.

Tim Williams acts like Toby Weathersby isn’t even there and he’s at the quarterback as his dropback is finishing. Good move by Etling to step and out. Obviously, this should be a completion but the point is that he was forced out of the pocket immediately.

KJ Malone sets so hard to the left here that he allows a huge window for Ryan Anderson to come through and force the bad throw by Etling. Malone is setting for this defensive back who blitzes but he has to know that he has a running back coming to help him.

I know you’re all sick of me defending quarterbacks but in the context of not being able to run the ball and having to deal with your pocket collapsing even though Alabama is dropping 7 guys into coverage you can understand why Danny had a bad day.

Sticky Coverage

Not sending blitzes or pressure means you can sit in coverage with a lot of players and cover up receivers.

I’m not sure what Danny is supposed to do here. Could he have thrown the ball a little more outside? I guess, but Tim Williams is actually outside of JD Moore for a little bit at the beginning. Jeter is covered over the top outside, underneath and inside.

Danny starts by looking at his trips side. He has a double out concept against what amounts to Cover 2- Man coverage. He’s reading the middle defender who runs with the middle slot, meaning the inside slot is where you’d go with the ball if Malachi Dupre wasn’t blanketed. Etling tries to get across the field to find his isolated receiver but it’s too late and he’s sacked.

These two plays are basically the same. I think they’re telling Danny to read the defender over the slot receiver. Both times that DB runs with the slot. This slot release down the field is going to hold the safety to that side of the field on the hashmark opening up the fade throw. The coverage is just really good. Both times the Averett has his receiver in phase and should have made a pick on the first play.

Even though it’s hard to see, I think what happens here is that LSU is running a deep cross concept off play action. Alabama is in a split safety coverage so the deep post is going to be bracketed by the corner and the top side safety. The deep cross gets capped on top by the near side safety and underneath by the corner on the near side.

If you take away all the aforementioned plays, it doesn’t leave a lot of plays left. Leaving out a couple 3rd and longs and a couple screen passes, let’s see the times when Danny did or Danny didn’t make plays.

The Good

Even though this is barely incomplete this is a great throw. Alabama rolls down to Cover 1 so Etling knows he can hit the corner route when the cornerback chases the in route by the wide receiver. I think Chark needs to take an inside release on his corner route to give himself more to then work back to the sideline. Not a lot of room for Danny to throw this ball after the play-action.

Alabama blitzes and plays Cover 1. I have no problem throwing the shallow cross against a Cover 1 blitz because you don’t think you’re going to have time to throw the dig route (to Desean Smith in this case). You’re running away from man coverage with the shallow route, it’s just that Ronnie Harrison plays this extremely well and everyone on Alabama tackles really well and it ends up being a 2 yard gain.

Danny can throw the stick route to Dural for a completion but he sees the red sea part and picks up 8 yards.

Etling’s read here is to see if the linebacker runs with Foster Moreau to know if he throws to Moreau or hits Leonard Fournette behind him. It’s a good read and I think this might be a first down if not for the ref.

The way that Alabama coaches their underneath defenders/linebackers is that when they’re in zone, they have to go find someone to cover. They don’t just sit there looking at the quarterback while receivers run around and find openings behind their heads. This is how you should teach defense. One of the ways you can take advantage of it is by delaying people into their routes. You see the Alabama linebackers sprint to go find someone leaving Colin Jeter wide open.

Sail/Out Route against inside shade man coverage.. Danny hits this easily. Tom Brady made this same throw on the game -tying drive on 3rd down against the Falcons. When the cornerback runs with the wide receiver he knows he has window to throw the out breaking route.

The Bad

The bad throws were all Brandon Harris level inaccurate passes. That’s the disappointing thing. They weren’t bad reads, Danny just whiffed a few times and that sucks. This is what gives me the most hope because I think he buckled under the pressure. Not the pressure of this being a big game, but the pressure of getting smacked around a lot. As a quarterback you have to be able to take hits and come back the next play unfazed.