What you need to know about LSU's freshman QBs, both of whom could play against South Carolina
LSU’s starting quarterback likely will take his first snap in a college game Saturday night.
Whether it’s Max Johnson or T.J. Finley remains to be seen. Quite likely, both will make their college debut against South Carolina.
Johnson was a 4-star recruit and No. 10-ranked pro-style passer out of Georgia. Finley, an in-state standout, was a 3-star recruit and No. 19-ranked pro-style passer.
It’s not out of the question that junior Myles Brennan will make his 4th consecutive start, and the 2 freshmen will have to continue waiting for their first opportunity.
But it seems much more likely that Brennan won’t be able to play because of an injury suffered against Missouri on Oct. 10.
Head coach Ed Orgeron said Brennan could not have played the last week if the game at Florida had not been postponed because of COVID issues. He also said Brennan “has a significant injury to his lower body.”
Orgeron described Brennan’s injury as “something that we do believe is going to heal.” But he sounded like someone who is preparing to utilize his freshmen – and use them in tandem.
“We’re going to practice both of those quarterbacks this week,” Orgeron said. “We’re going to tell them whoever has the best week is going to start. I plan on giving them both a chance during the game. I want to see what they can do. The only way to do it is in live action.”
Perhaps Orgeron was thinking of his approach if Brennan were to ultimately be unavailable, but he spoke as though that was already his expectation.
It’s the same approach the Tigers took last week as they tried to get the freshmen ready to face the Gators.
Orgeron said they “both had fantastic weeks” in preparation for the game that’s now scheduled for Dec. 12.
“Both of them are very impressive,” Orgeron said. “I believe both of those guys have NFL talent at quarterback. Now, they haven’t been in live action.”
Orgeron said he expects to make a decision after practice Thursday and tell the players what he expects from them.
“I’ll sit down and talk to them, tell them I believe in them, tell them they’ll be fine, just do the things they can do,” he said. “That’s why they were recruited here, why they came here. Both of those guys, I think it really helped they were here last spring.
“Although we didn’t have spring football, they matured a lot, they have been in the meetings a lot. They know our offense. (Offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger) is going to have to see what they can do. He knows what both of them can do. Call the game that they can manage in the game.”
Orgeron said the decision on who to start will be influenced by which player “best suits” being successful against the Gamecocks’ defense.
“We’re not going to give it to anybody,” Orgeron said. “They have to perform. Last week both of them were ready to start us off. They got prepared for that. They didn’t know who was going to start, so it’s going to be the same thing this week.
“Now playing at home should be easier for them. Obviously being the first game to any one of them is going to be a little nervousness. I think both of them can handle it. I’m telling you, these two young quarterbacks are great players I’m anxious to see what they can do.”
Brennan added some 60 pounds to his frame since arriving 3 years ago, but Finley has lost about 20 pounds. He was listed at 6-6, 250 as a high school recruit.
“I think it’s helped him,” said Orgeron, who added that Finley is “a dual-threat quarterback” and said Johnson “is more of a scrambler” than Finley and “a little faster” than last year’s starter, Joe Burrow.
Whoever plays quarterback – Johnson, Finley, Johnson/Finley or even Brennan – would benefit from an improved running game than the Tigers have shown during a 1-2 start.
“We worked hard on that last week,” Orgeron said. “It’s really important this game and any game for us to get the running game going. That’s going to set up the pass. We cannot be one-dimensional.
“We have to be able to block better up front. We have to be able to run the football better in order to not get behind on second and 10, third and 10. We have to get in manageable (situations).”