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2018 LSU Football Preview: Quarterbacks

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While the program may have finally found some stability at the top, questions remain.

Gus Stark/LSU

We Have to Talk About LSU’s Quarterbacks™ is a yearly event here, and don’t imagine for a second I’m not just as tired of it as the rest.

And just when it seems like we might have put the whole thing to rest for a bit — Danny Etling puts together a good 2017, and then LSU finds a legit starting-quality grad transfer in Joe Burrow, we still manage to have something happen that throws the position back into a crisis.

While the loss of Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse does relatively little to the top of LSU’s depth chart, it does, however, mean that the Tigers enter the 2018 season with just two scholarship quarterbacks.

That’s less than ideal.

2018 LSU Football Roster: Quarterbacks

Player Ht, Wt Comp-Att Yards TD INT Comp Rate Sacks Sack Rate Yards/ Att. Misc.
Player Ht, Wt Comp-Att Yards TD INT Comp Rate Sacks Sack Rate Yards/ Att. Misc.
9 Joe Burrow (Jr.)* 6-3, 214 7-11 61 0 0 63.00% 0 0.00% 5.5
15 Myles Brennan (So.) 6-4, 193 14-24 182 1 2 58.30% 3 11.10% 5.9 6 non-sack carries for 17 yards, lost 1 fumble.
*At Ohio State in 2017.

Projected Depth Chart: Burrow wasn’t brought in here to be the backup. Nothing was promised, but all parties involved were confident that he would overtake what LSU had on hand, and he has. Myles Brennan remains the hopeful quarterback of the future, but the plan had shifted to, hopefully, getting his redshirt year back by taking advantage of the new four-game rule, in which a player can play in up to four games while still redshirting. Had that happened, McMillan would have been the ostensible backup.

Narcisse had a package of six plays installed exclusively for him, with the plan mostly being to see exactly what he could add to this team as a playmaker. Had he excelled, that role would have only grown, with an eye on he and Brennan competing for the job down the road. Narcisse, coming off his series of injuries in high school, no longer wanted to wait, which is understandable. But that layoff was also the very issue that made LSU’s coaches hesitant, along with struggles throwing the ball accurately.

For the present, LSU is fine — had Burrow missed any significant amount of time, Brennan would have likely come in anyway due to his passing ability. And if you’re forced to start a third-team quarterback, things are already in a bad place.

But it does mean that continuing to develop Brennan has to be a priority. Maybe that redshirt plan still works: if Burrow is healthy and coming out of the game late, walk-ons like Andre Sale are perfectly capable of handing the ball off.

Power Point: Joe Burrow

To date, the former Ohio State backup has been everything LSU’s coaches expected. He worked his way into the quarterback room quickly, and has shown the poise and accuracy that was advertised. Burrow brings real plus mobility to the position — he’s not the same physical specimen that Narcisse was, but he’s more than an adequate runner — and a strong, confident short and intermediate passer. I’m still a little concerned about his deep ball, but if he can keep things moving otherwise, it will create easier deep throws.

Pressure Point: Joe Burrow

The fact remains, as hopeful as we may be on Burrow — and let it not be said that this is an LSU-specific thing; you have to work pretty hard to find anybody from the Ohio State side with anything negative to say, and other national pundits like Michael Felder have been confident in his ability as well — the fact remains that this is a quarterback that has all of 39 career pass attempts, who left Ohio State because he couldn’t win the starting job there.

It’s certainly conceivable that he’s ready to be the competent quarterback that LSU desperately needs. But it remains a question, and one that may take time to answer. And with two potential top-10 opponents within the first three weeks, the Tigers need an answer quickly.