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Joe Burrow and the Learning Curve

More thoughts on what LSU’s new transfer can offer in the big picture.

Ohio State v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Dan did an excellent job of outlining most of my feelings on the Joe Burrow signing — official now, by the way:

LSU returns a roster that’s still somewhere into a rebuild; most of this roster will consist of first- and second-year players in 2018, with just 12 seniors. Ed Orgeron had already nabbed up three transfers in hoping to shore things up a bit, but a freshman or sophomore quarterback (or a veteran like Justin McMillan that might not have the talent level) leading a roster like that against a brutal schedule is definitely less than ideal.

Burrow raises the floor of the 2018 team. A veteran quarterback that, in theory, is in a better position to lead an offense that’s going to be freshman- and sophomore-heavy. A better record helps Orgeron and Co. with their biggest counter on the recruiting trail — job security (along with proof of concept for Steve Ensminger as offensive coordinator). And if the 2019 class is as good as some have speculated, it helps LSU get back to a championship level in the following season.

Development is the key — and hopefully, Burrow can get the Tigers ahead of the curve there under center. Monday afternoon, LSU received a glimmer of hope that at least one of the young quarterbacks on the roster remains locked in, via the Biloxi Sun-Herald:

“Here’s what I think: I think Joe Burrow has three years and 15 pounds on Myles. That’s it,” Owen said. “I don’t think he has a huge upper hand.”

Myles Brennan’s dad may very well be right. If we’re being honest, I can’t tell you if Burrow is more talented, or has a higher ceiling than Brennan. But three years and 15 pounds matters right now. A 22-year-old, 215-pound quarterback is in a much different place than a 19-year-old, 190-pound one.

As I said when the Burrow recruitment began — LSU’s seen this play out with young quarterbacks from Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson through Anthony Jennings and then Brandon Harris. Young quarterbacks forced into starting roles as first- or second-year players, all of whom showed flashes of talent but never really progressed. Say what you want about Les Miles or Cam Cameron or any of the coaches involved, but another year or two of physical, mental and emotional development certainly wouldn’t have hurt those players.

Ideally, Brennan could receive the redshirt year he didn’t get in 2017, while Lowell Narcisse works in as a change-of-pace option to regain his own footing following his injury history in high school (LSU may need that to help the running game). Both players will have, at minimum, two more years of eligibility left Burrow has finished his, and would be well set up to compete for the job by then. With more younger talent behind them pushing and developing at their own pace as well.

McMillan could potentially be an immediately eligible graduate transfer himself, but that’s an acceptable loss at this point. Honestly, if most of what I’ve heard out of the Football Ops building is true about McMillan, he’ll likely stick it out for at least one more season. He’s both a competitor and a team leader (member of the team leadership council).

That leadership and unity isn’t lost in this situation — while the whole “Joe Burrow and LSU players started following each other on social media” thing was kind of played for some laughs by most fans, it’s relevant because it indicates that the players reached out to Burrow independently. His visit came on a weekend when most of the team were at home between the end of the spring semester and the summer session, so chances are there were very few on hand and in-person. That they made the effort to help bring Burrow in is telling.

Meanwhile, Burrow will arrive on campus the first week of June, along with the rest of the team. His graduate coursework schedule should offer more time to cram on the playbook, and get to know his new teammates. NCAA rules also allow for up to four hours of classroom time with coaches during summer months now. He should be in position to compete by August.