It’s funny to hear people enthusiastically yearn for a “modern offense” with a “running QB.” The running QB and the beginnings of the game are directly intertwined. When Walter Camp incepted the position, as American football blossomed from Rugby roots. A QBs initial role is a far cry from how the position evolved today, as Camp describes it:
A scrimmage takes place when the holder of the ball puts it on the ground before him and puts it in play while on-side either by kicking the ball or by snapping it back with his foot. The man who first receives the ball from the snap-back shall be called the quarter-back and shall not rush forward with the ball under penalty of foul.
Rules were quickly amended to allow quarterback’s ability to rush forward. But even then, the quarterback didn’t become specialized until years down the road. Princeton initiated the quarterback as leader of the offense. Each Ivy experimented with quarterback usage, with Harvard rotating three halfbacks into the role. 1906 marked the legalization of the forward pass and yet, offense still predominantly utilized the QB as an additional runner deep into the 1960s.
Today, true option offenses are primarily limited to service academies or schools with major talent disadvantages. But in the mid 2000s the option play came back into vogue, though extrapolated over “modern” formations. Suddenly, running QBs were no longer shoehorned to service academies or attempted to be jammed into an offense for which their skills did not naturally translate. The option QB became in vogue and along with it an entire generation of fans pleading for a modern offense that actually most closely represents the game’s origins.
LSU fans have yet to truly drink from the fountain of the game’s latest evolution. A Les Miles offense more appropriately imitated blunt force trauma than surgical knifing often seen in multi-read, multi-look offenses. It ultimately lead to his undoing in Baton Rouge and now Orgeron is tasked with bringing LSU into the present offensively. O tabbed Matt Canada to solve the QB quandary, insisting on an offense that would be rife with balance while incorporating spread looks and RPOs that had been so casually discarded by Miles and Cameron. So far, so good.
Canada’s coached a variety of different QBs with different traits and prides himself on scheming to talent rather than trying to force a scheme on his players. Which makes the pair of LSU QBs signed in 2017 all the more interesting. We’ve touched on what Myles Brennan brings to the table, but his fellow signee, Lowell Narcisse brings an entirely different skill set.
Where does Lowell Narcisse fit into LSU’s offensive plans for the future?
Back of the Card
110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has "can’t miss" talent.
100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.
97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who is projected to play professionally.
89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.
79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.
247 Composite Ranking: ****
247 Composite Rating: .9041
Narcisse finished the 261st overall player and the 9th ranked dual-threat QB. The fact that Narcisse maintained such lofty rankings despite playing almost no football for two seasons is indicative of his lofty potential. Narcisse suffered significant knee injuries three games into his Junior season and then prior to his Senior season, meaning he hasn’t played in an actual football game in over two years. Yet, talent evaluators still gush over his skillset and upside.
Officially listed at 6’2”, 231, Narcisse is built more like an OLB than your typical QB. His thick, athletic frame may remind some of former Florida legend Tim Tebow. That frame is college ready, though Narcisse could probably use the additional time to heal and knock off rust from his second knee injury.
On the Field
Already There: Explosiveness, Strength, Open Field Skills, Live Arm
Working On It: Throwing Mechanics, Accuracy, Learning the Position
Doesn’t Have It:
Explosiveness: Narcisse isn’t just a sledge hammer running the football. He can flat out run and the play at :27 shows it. Once he hits the hole, he’s able to stutter step, jet through tiny slivers and find the sideline to beat some angles for 6. Impressive stuff. At :56 you see it again. He’s quick in his cuts and hits top speed exceptionally fast. He’s got a little bit of Derrius Guice in him in his ability to make people look silly in a short area.
Strength: Shockingly, that 6’2”, 230 pound frame comes in handy in the running game. Narcisse is not an easy guy to bring down. Check 1:43 where he actually runs right out of a guy who has him wrapped up around the shoulders. Powerful leg churn drives him home.
Open Field Skills: Some guys can run to daylight, but some guys just have a knack for making people miss in the open field. Narcisse combines both those to make himself a truly lethal option if a play breaks down. Watch 2:08 and you’ll see him takeoff, make 6-8 defenders miss before finally being taken down about 65 yards later.
Live Arm: Narcisse slings it around pretty effortlessly, even if his mechanics are often very unsound. The play at 7:34 is a tremendous exhibition of what his arm can do. I’m not sure he’s Jamarcus Russell level, but he definitely can turn up the RPMs. The throw at 9:58 is a shining example... rolling to the left, back across his body. Even a sideline throw like 10:40, that ball is firing out his left hand.
Working On It
Throwing Mechanics: Narcisse is all over the map and really needs to be built from the ground up here. He is everything you’d expect a predominant running QB to be. His throwing motion needs to be re-tooled from his current 3/4ths delivery.
Accuracy: Narcisse is a chucker. He makes most his hay in the passing game using his athleticism to buy his receivers time and then finding a wide open target. That’s all well and good in HS, but won’t happen in the SEC. I do think accuracy can be improved upon, especially if he can tidy up the mechanical issues, which are often part and parcel with mechanics.
Learning the Position: Narcisse played QB, but on tape I don’t see a QB. He’s a glorified running back that chucks it up now and again. He’ll have to develop in his ability to command the offense and control the show on the field.
Poseur’s 80s Movie Comparison
“Credit is a sacred trust, it’s what our free society is founded on.” Such is the advice of Bud (Harry Dean Stanton). It is the foundation of the Repo Code, one of the more ridiculous system of ethics in either fiction or reality.
But that is what LSU had in Lowell Narcisse. After he flipped from Auburn, he was a prized recruit. When he injured his knee, he became an early attrition candidate. No one would have looked askance had LSU quietly backed away from its offer. What good is a running quarterback with two knee injuries? But LSU obeyed the Repo Code, and as such Narcisse gets Repo Man.
Like Narcisse himself, Repo Man is a movie that’s still rough around the edges. It was made on the cheap, and looks like it. Movies don’t much look like this anymore, but Repo Man uses the stark aesthetics to its advantage, turning all products into generics (the best is a can simply labelled: FOOD). It also has one of the all-time great soundtracks, full of up and coming punk acts and a bunch of Iggy Pop songs in an era in which Iggy was near entirely absent from mainstream culture.
There’s no polish to Repo Man, just like Narcisse. But there is plenty of talent on display. Narcisse still has tons of challenges and unpredictable turns to a career that might never result in him becoming the starting quarterback. He’s the outsider, and maybe he just likes the job because he gets to steal cars. So let’s go get sushi, and not pay.
What the Future Holds
Narcisse’s recruiting took an interesting path. A one-time Auburn commit, Narcisse then flipped to home state LSU. After remaining committed for several months, he took his official visit to Auburn and then to LSU and opened his process back up. Seven days later, he recommitted to the good guys. A lot of Narcisse’s concerns revolved around offensive schemes and maximizing his talents. Auburn has frankly shown a better ability to utilize a QB with his skillset, but Matt Canada was able to ease his concerns.
The path for Narcisse is presently very foggy. Albeit only limited practice viewing, several media members noted he was clearly the least accurate of all the passers on LSU’s roster. That’s not unsurprising.
Narcisse needs a lot of work as a passer. There are physical tools there that give reason for optimism, but even as a run-first QB, his passing skill just isn’t ready for collegiate play. At least not in any substantial way. During fall camp, Orgeron mentioned Narcisse was “right there” for the back-up QB spot. It was also noted he made several impressive runs during scrimmages. It was pretty clear from the number he wasn’t in serious contention for the starting spot:
QB Stats:— James Moran (@SmartestMoran) August 19, 2017
Danny Etling: 13-22, 168 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Myles Brennan: 10-20, 122 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Lowell Narcisse: 0-2, rush TD#LSU
But murmurs of his running accolades fueled speculation that LSU may be looking at a special package that gets him on the field as a running threat. He didn’t see any action in week one, but no real need to unveil special packages, if they are under wraps, when you are manhandling an opponent with your base schemes.
Yet, this raises an interesting dilemma. Myles Brennan is already foregoing his RS. If you use Narcisse, both remain on the same eligibility track. Is there value in giving Narcisse a RS to create some separation?
For Narcisse’s long term development, I think a RS is essential. He needs reps on reps on reps perfecting his passing mechanics and is already at a clear disadvantage to see playing time in 2017 and, one would think, next year. Right now Myles Brennan is the clear back-up and heir apparent to Danny Etling.
But it gets tricky. How patient will Narcisse be in waiting his turn? Even if he can plainly see his passing needs work compared to the others, very few athletes can willingly concede the other guy deserved the job. Playing Narcisse in a special package may help satiate his desire to be on the field, which could help keep him in the program. Now that Lindsey Scott transferred, the last thing LSU needs is additional QB attrition.
These are tough decisions. I see pros and cons to handling both ways. Narcisse and Brennan will almost 100% be in an open competition for the starting QB job in 2018. The only scenario in which that doesn’t occur is one in which Brennan somehow assumes the starting role in 2017 and lights the world on fire like Sam Darnold or Jalen Hurts last year.
The other option may be to consider taking a path like Russell Shepard. At 6’2”, 230, Narcisse could conceivably be a starting RB in the SEC. He seems married to the idea of playing QB, but sometimes the reality of seeing a path to playing time and seeing your own skills up against others can put things in perspective.
Right now, the best thing Narcisse can do is get himself into the best shape of his life, learn the offense forward and backward and work, work, work to command the respect of his teammates. He needs to stay glued into Matt Canada’s coaching and work to spend any every moment he can perfecting his passing form. If I were in his position, I’d also consider hiring a personal QB coach, one that meets the LSU staff’s approval, so I could put in additional work when coaching staff practice hour limitations are met.
Narcisse has the talent to win the starting QB job, but he’s going to have to work to do it.
High End: Solid Starting QB
Low End: Transfer out of program to play QB or position change
Realistic: There’s so many variables here I’m having a hard time seeing a clear path. You can never know what a kid is thinking. It’s easy to see a scenario where Narcisse gets sick of the waiting game and moves on. But he could also put his nose to the grind and earn it. My hope is that he stays in the program and eventually becomes LSU’s fully formed starter his senior season.