At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, the LSU quarterback position is as healthy as it has ever been in the program’s 127 years of existence.
LSU started three different quarterbacks in 2020 and all three won games. The trio of Myles Brennan, TJ Finley, and Max Johnson wasn’t perfect but considering the struggles of the offensive line, questionable offensive schemes, and the Tigers fielding literally the worst defense in school history, I can’t direct too much ire at a pair of true freshmen and a first-year starter.
2021 LSU Quarterbacks
|15 Myles Brennan (Rs. Sr.)||6'4"/210||79/131||1,112||11||3||60.3||8.5||154.7||17 carries, -36 yards; sacked 9 times|
|11 TJ Finley (So.)||6'6"/242||80/140||941||5||5||57.1||6.7||118.2||29 carries, 34 yards, 1 touchdown; sacked 6 times|
|14 Max Johnson (So.)||6'5"/219||44/75||1,069||8||1||58.7||7.9||134.8||54 carries, 119 yards, 2 touchdowns; sacked 8 times|
|Garrett Nussmeier (Fr.)||6'2"/172||Four-star recruit|
The 2020 season was a season from hell for LSU but it ended with some positive momentum. LSU won its last two games to end the year at .500, it signed another top-five recruiting class, returns basically every contributor from the previous year, and made some much needed coaching changes. But the best bit of news is that Myles Brennan appears to have worked his way back from his torn abdominal injury that took him out three games into the season.
“We’re only going through walkthrough right now, but he’s in the weight room,” Orgeron said in a mid-February interview with WWL.” He’s doing everything that the team does. He’s throwing with the team after when the coaches are not on the field. He looks like he’s full speed right now.”
Brennan wasn’t Joe Burrow, but in the three games he played in he was good enough for LSU to be 3-0. Instead the Tiger defense failed the offense, allowing 44 and 45 points in the losses to Mississippi State and Missouri and an average of 515 passing yards in those two games.
Health permitting, Brennan should still be the starting quarterback for LSU and taking most if not all of the reps with the first-team offense when spring practice begins in two weeks. The starting quarterback position shouldn’t be up for debate. The real battle will be for QB2.
For maybe the first time ever, LSU has proven depth along the quarterback position. The only other example that comes to mind is 2006 when LSU had JaMarcus Russell, Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux in its quarterback room.
TJ Finley got five starts and had his fair share of highs and lows. In his first career start against South Carolina, Finley looked nearly flawless completing 17 of 21 passes and scoring three touchdowns; he also led a game winning drive on the road in less than ideal weather conditions at Arkansas.
But his bad moments looked really bad. Finley had a nightmare of a game against Auburn getting sacked twice and throwing a pair of interceptions in the most lopsided defeat in the history of the Auburn-LSU game. Against a Texas A&M team that was begging to be upset at Kyle Field, Finley looked hapless, completing 9 of 25 passes and throwing two backbreaking picks.
Finley was benched in the Auburn and A&M games in favor of Max Johnson and Johnson showed why the coaching staff was so high on him. Johnson threw a 43-yard bomb to Kayshon Boutte during garbage time of the Auburn game, and engineered a 14-play touchdown drive on LSU’s final possession against Texas A&M to avoid the shutout.
Johnson took the starting reigns from Finley for LSU’s last two games and shined, throwing for 674 yards and six touchdowns compared to just one interception. He won both games and made clutch plays in the fourth quarter in both the upset over Florida and the rally against Ole Miss.
All of this is to say LSU has legitimate options at quarterback if something were to happen to Myles Brennan again. Johnson is the better athlete and seems to have a little bit of that “it” factor, while Finley has the better arm and can make all the throws. And then there’s true freshman Garrett Nussmeier, the four-star, top-100 prospect who is already on campus.
So who’s first off the bench for LSU if Brennan goes down? That’s what these upcoming 15 practices and April’s spring game will decide, though if I were to pick I’d say Johnson is QB2. Orgeron won’t, and shouldn’t, name his starting and backup quarterback six months before the season starts, but instead will let the competition play itself out.
“It’s going to be a great quarterback race. I can’t wait to see it,” Orgeron said in an interview last week with 104.5. “We got great quarterbacks back there, better than we ever had (as far as a group), and we’ve got more returning starters than we’ve ever had, and we got a great recruiting class, so this is going to be a good year for us.”