If playing quarterback is the hardest job in all of sports, how much tougher is it being the guy after THE GUY?
Sometimes teams luck out and have another THE GUY in waiting. The 49ers moved from Joe Montana to Steve Young. Oklahoma had back-to-back Heisman trophy winning quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, and the year after that Jalen Hurts finished second in the voting behind Joe Burrow.
Other teams are transitioning or are about to be quarterbacked by a new face. After 20 years, the New England Patriots are about to experience life after Tom Brady. The New Orleans Saints are starting to brace themselves for the post-Drew Brees era, signing Taysom Hill to a two-year extension and Jameis Winston to a one-year prove it deal. And the Green Bay Packers let the world know they think they have the next Aaron Rodgers when they traded up in the first round to grab Utah State’s Jordan Love.
Coach O and his LSU Tigers are in the same boat as the Patriots. They have the unenviable task of trying to replace Burrow, the reigning Heisman trophy winner and best player in program history.
2020 LSU Quarterbacks
|Myles Brennan (Rs. Jr.)||6’4”/ 207||`24/40||353||1||1||60||8.8|
|*Peter Parrish (Rs. Fr.)||6’1”/190||Redshirted|
|Max Johnson||6’4”/ 211||Four-star recruit|
|TJ Finley||6’6”/257||Three-star recruit|
After four years of waiting, it’s finally the Myles Brennan show. For better or worse, this is Brennan’s team and he has the unenviable task of following up Joe Burrow’s historic 2019 season. LSU didn’t dip into the transfer market and try to recreate the Joe Burrow experience by bringing in a D’Eriq King, Jamie Newman or JT Daniels, instead they stuck with the guy who has stuck by them the last four years.
We need to stop and take a moment and say to ourselves Brennan will not be able to match Burrow’s production last year. Burrow had, quite literally, the best season a college quarterback has ever had. To expect Brennan to recreate 5,000 yards and 60 touchdowns isn’t fair or realistic.
So what is a fair expectation for Brennan? After all he has Ja’Marr Chase the best receiver in program history and surefire top-10 pick in next year’s draft to throw to. And he has Terrace Marshall a five-star who caught 13 touchdowns. He also has a trio of solid running backs to work with, Racey McMath who has shown he’s ready to be the No. 3 receiver and Arik Gilbert the highest rated tight end prospect in 247 history. Plus it is year four for Brennan under Steve Ensminger and his second in the new system Joe Brady incorporated.
In his first year as LSU’s starting quarterback, Burrow threw for 2,894 yards and 16 touchdowns while only completing 58 percent of his passes. LSU was able to win 10 games,—and it should have been 11—with just okay production from Burrow. That yardage with hopefully a slightly higher completion percentage and a few more touchdowns should be doable for Brennan.
The supporting cast for Brennan, save for maybe the offensive line, is a very good if not great one. It comes down to if Brennan can make the plays. Everyone inside the program says he’s ready. He even got his own hype video saying as much.
But all the praise from coaches and hype videos from the creative team won’t determine if Myles Brennan is truly ready to be LSU’s starting quarterback. The games will. If LSU’s down four against Texas can he lead LSU on a game-winning drive? If the Tigers absolutely have to have a first down in the Swamp or on the Plains can he make that 3rd down completion? That remains to be seen.
While we know who QB1 is, what about Brennan’s backup? Peter Parrish was suspended indefinitely in March for a violation of team rules. If Parrish’s suspension continues to last throughout the summer, the backup quarterback spot will be a battle of two early enrollees: Max Johnson and TJ Finley.
Johnson is the higher rated quarterback of the two and comes from a good pedigree. He’s the son of Brad Johnson, who quarterbacked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl in 2002. Max is also left-handed and this is where I disclose my bias as a lefty myself.
Johnson has stayed active during the quarantine throwing to his younger brother Jake, one of the more highly regarded tight end prospects in the 2022 recruiting class. Johnson released this video on Twitter in late May.
Enjoy getting better everyday! Geaux Tigers! pic.twitter.com/iKw6FCRc0H— Max Johnson (@qbmjohnson2020) May 22, 2020
In the other corner is TJ Finley, the top quarterback prospect in Louisiana last year and the first one to commit to LSU’s 2020 class. Finley pledged to LSU in May of 2018 and never wavered. Finley is a massive human being. LSU lists him at 6’5, 257. That’s Jamarcus Russell size and he certainly has a Russell arm. He’s also worked on his body lately. Finley told Geaux Nation’s Chessa Bouche he’s dropped 20 pounds and has been building chemistry with fellow freshman Koy Moore.
Finley arrived at campus about two weeks before Johnson, but my gut tells me Johnson is the second string quarterback. Johnson’s far from a finished product, but Finley seems to be the bigger project. A lot hinges on Peter Parrish’s status of course. If Parrish isn’t back with the team one of Johnson or Finley cannot take a redshirt, someone has to be ready in case something happens to Brennan. But if Parrish is reinstated, both Johnson and Finley ought to take the redshirt and spend the 2020 season honing their abilities because it’s highly likely the two aren’t ready for college ball just yet.