In a word, no.
Because LSU football doesn’t need saving. There’s a peculiar malaise that’s overtaken the majority of the LSU fanbase in 2018. It’s an attitude previously persisted by a certain subset of fans during the Miles era and is now seemed to taken ahold of the general consciousness of the masses. Discussions of LSU not making a bowl are now the topic du jour, which seem utterly asinine in light of narrowly winning 10 games last season.
2018 will be a bit of a rebuild for the LSU program in some aspects, but a major piece of that rebuild revolved around ushering in a new, lightly experienced QB along with a new, heavily experienced OC. Stated more clearly, the coaching staff answered one of the program’s biggest question marks this offseason and somehow people remain unsatisfied. Whether or not Ensminger can deliver LSU the offensive success it’s desperately lacked remains to be seen, but one of his primary hurdles is cleared.
So what is Joe Burrow worth to LSU? Probably anywhere from two to four wins in a season, which is a pretty tremendous value add, especially considering there’s a possibility he could be in Baton Rouge for two years. A four to eight win uptick in wins over a two year span is the difference in a coach being fired and a coach finding a second contract.
The reality is that Burrow expedites the timeline and thus our expectations with it. It’s silly to think LSU won’t be bowl eligible in 2018 and if they somehow don’t clear that bar, Orgeron’s days are likely over.
Adding Burrow may not be the magic sauce needed to take LSU above Bama and Georgia, at least not in 2018, but it is the edge they needed to safely clear teams like Florida, Mississippi State, & Texas A&M. It’s not that LSU couldn’t win those games with Brennan or whomever playing QB, it’s that when you are laying out your advantage to chart, the QB will now fall to LSU’s side more commonly, and that’s significant.
If it seems I’m foisting unreasonable expectations on Burrow, then perhaps I am. LSU is implementing a spread, pass-first, RPO-styled offense and it’s the type of machine that needs a quality operator. Burrow may only have 15 more collegiate snaps than Myles Brennan, but he also has two full seasons of collegiate preparation compared to Brennan’s one.
That doesn’t mean he’ll be a slam dunk. The fact that Burrow is transferring at all illustrates that he’s not a bonafide star. Or at least the coaches at Ohio State didn’t think so, when they tethered their future to Dwayne Haskins instead. If you’ll recall, while Zach Mettenberger put together a strong senior season, he spent a year as a backup in Baton Rouge, and then had a middling junior campaign leading up to that point.
Burrow does have a few things working in his advantage. First of all, he’s already completed school, so he’s able to dedicate himself fully to football, something many believed helped elevate Mettenberger in that final season. Secondly is that development experience. The timing here works nicely, and could theoretically set LSU up well in the future. It’s best to think of Burrow as a guy who spent the last two seasons as Danny Etling’s backup, waiting his turn to take the starting role. It feels much better to lean into a Junior with little playing experience than a Sophomore with little playing experience.
Will there be casualties? Probably. It seems unlikely that both of Brennan and Narcisse will hang around the program just to battle it out again in a year or two and possibly risk losing the starting opportunity again. But when you know what must have necessitated the staff to make this move, it doesn’t look so bleak. It’s obvious none of the QBs are yet where they want them to be, or perhaps they feel they never will be. Burrow let’s the staff hit the reset on the QB depth chart, make a plan to bring in more talent in 2019 and beyond AND hopefully keep at least one of Brennan/Narcisse in the fold so they can lean into another veteran starter in a year or two. That’s the type of QB “problems” we haven’t seen in these parts in some time.
Given the rebuild that LSU found itself in, Burrow kicks LSU’s program into life and should give us immediate reason for optimism. Two of the biggest concerns about the 2018 team were lack of experience at QB and lack of depth at defensive back. Through a pair of transfers, Orgeron and staff tackled both. That’s not to say LSU is suddenly back to championship level, but this team is now much closer and people should adjust their expectations accordingly.
Orgeron needed a win and he got one in a big way.