Open competition? Sure, but here's why Ed Orgeron should want Myles Brennan to be LSU's QB1
In Ed Orgeron’s perfect world, the first week of December will include LSU traveling to Atlanta and Myles Brennan earning an All-SEC honor.
LSU is living in a far from perfect world both on and off the field. What happens as a result of an investigation into LSU’s alleged Title IX protocol violations is the macro issue surrounding spring camp. The micro issue, oddly enough, is the quarterback battle involving Brennan and Max Johnson.
Orgeron can say all the politically correct things and praise both quarterbacks, but whether he admits it publicly or not, his ideal world involves Brennan being the guy. Like, the guy who leads the bounce-back season and gets LSU back to competing for an SEC title and making it to a New Year’s 6 bowl.
We’ve already seen that praise come out. Orgeron went on his regular appearance “Off the Bench” with T-Bob Hebert and Jacob Hester and said that Brennan looked “phenomenal.” Speaking of how the LSU quarterback looks, in case you missed it, the whole “he’ll never gain weight” thing should’ve officially died a painful death when these pictures of a beefed up Brennan hit social media:
#LSU QB Myles Brennan is now 6’5”, 224 pounds 😮
— Garland Gillen (@garlandgillen) March 3, 2021
— Myles Brennan (@MylesBrennan) March 3, 2021
When addressing the media on Tuesday, Orgeron said that Brennan is at 100 percent coming off a torn oblique that ultimately limited him to just 3 games last year. Fortunately, no surgery was needed.
Orgeron also added that Johnson, by virtue of winning those last 2 games against Florida and Ole Miss, got the first snaps, but that reps were being split among him, Brennan and TJ Finley. “Let the best man win,” Orgeron said.
If we’re being honest though, LSU’s immediate and future is set up better if Brennan can be the best man.
Why? Picture what happens if Johnson wins the job. We don’t know when LSU would ideally like to name a starter. One would think they’d ideally prefer if one quarterback could get the vast majority of the reps with the first-teamers by fall camp. Again, that’s an ideal world.
In an ideal world, Orgeron could do that without worrying about Brennan and/or Finley transferring. This, however, is 2021, wherein quarterbacks transferring from Power 5 programs is like taking out the trash. You can pretty much set your watch to it, especially when it’s announced publicly that one quarterback starts getting the majority of the first-team reps.
Do we know if Brennan and Finley would transfer? Absolutely not. For all we know, they’ll stick it out and provide the depth that LSU desperately needs at the position. But think about the dynamics. Johnson technically has 4 years of eligibility left. So does Finley, who might see the writing on the wall and decide he’d rather play elsewhere than wait for his classmate to falter or get hurt.
As for Brennan, this is Year 5 at LSU. If Johnson were to win the job early in fall camp, Brennan could theoretically go elsewhere and play immediately. And yes, based on the limited sample size in 2020 — he threw for 11 touchdown passes and over 1,100 yards — he’d absolutely have a Power 5 market.
It doesn’t guarantee it, but Johnson winning the starting job certainly opens the door for a potential depth issue like LSU had in 2018. Suddenly, true freshman Garrett Nussmeier would be QB2 by default, and all of LSU’s chips would be riding on Johnson.
In a way, that’d be reminiscent of what Orgeron had in 2018 when he went out and brought in Joe Burrow after spring camp. It didn’t sit well with LSU players when Burrow came in and graded out highest among the quarterbacks. As Orgeron shared in his book, “Flip the Script,” LSU’s leaders wanted Justin McMillan to be the starter. Orgeron stood his ground and said he was trusting the performance of the new guy, and soon after the first 2 weeks of scrimmages, McMillan left the team (Orgeron said without telling the coaching staff) and Lowell Narcisse also hit the transfer portal. To make matters worse, LSU previously whiffed on signing a quarterback in the 2018 class.
Sure, we know what Burrow became. But in that 2018 season, Brennan was an undersized redshirt freshman who was No. 2 on the depth chart. To make matters worse, Brennan dealt with a lingering lower-body injury for most of the season. Burrow was incredibly durable, but he was still limited in what he could do in the offense in part because LSU had to keep him healthy and because the Tigers had such a makeshift offensive line.
Again, Johnson starting isn’t quite the same thing because obviously he’s not the new guy coming in and stealing a job. If he’s the guy, he’ll have earned it. He certainly looked like the guy at the end of 2020 when he actually got full reps.
That’s why if you polled LSU fans, he’d probably be the favorite in the clubhouse. It’s not that they dislike Brennan. It’s that the shiny new toy is more exciting. If what Johnson did down the stretch was a little glimpse of the future, well, the future is bright.
It’ll be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Jake Peetz tweaks things with these signal-callers. Peetz is implementing something LSU fans should be plenty familiar with:
LSU is doing some snaps under center in Jake Peetz new offense, Orgeron says. “So that’s new.” #LSU
— Brody Miller (@BrodyAMiller) March 16, 2021
Fear not, LSU fans. The offense didn’t revert back to its stagnant, unproductive pre-Burrow days in 2020, and with Peetz coming from the blossoming Joe Brady coaching tree, one wouldn’t think that’d be the case in 2021, either.
Peetz will have a say in this battle, and if history is any indication, Orgeron will use the data provided to ultimately reach a decision. It will be a true battle. There will be a winner, and it won’t necessarily be Brennan just because he could give LSU the best long-term scenario for the quarterback room. He could theoretically have that breakout season and then leave for the NFL while the likes of Johnson and Finley battle it out in the 2022 offseason, both of whom would have 3 years of eligibility left.
It wasn’t long ago that Orgeron hyped up Brennan as the Burrow successor. There’s no denying that Orgeron wanted his first quarterback recruit to take the long path to success in Baton Rouge. It looks good for Orgeron and Co. when the 4-star guy sticks it out at the program then develops into a bonafide star.
(Remember that Brennan decommitted from LSU after Les Miles was fired and then recommitted when Orgeron signed his first class in 2017.)
Orgeron would probably still be hyping Brennan if LSU had simply split that last 2 instead of winning both games with Johnson as the starter. Perhaps even as Orgeron publicly discusses the open competition, he’ll slip in little reminders of just how “phenomenal” Brennan looks.
What we do know is this — Orgeron’s crystal ball is much clearer if Brennan is the best man on the Bayou.