With portal open for business, LSU quarterbacks have decisions to make

LSU has 3 really talented quarterbacks that have remaining eligibility.

Jayden Daniels had a really good season while leading the Tigers to the SEC West title and a berth in the Citrus Bowl.

Garrett Nussmeier showed significant growth from the beginning of the season to the end when he stepped in for an injured Daniels to play the second half of the 50-30 SEC Championship Game loss to No. 1 Georgia.

Walker Howard still has all of his eligibility left after red-shirting as a 5-star freshman recruit in 2022.

Daniels has proven he can compete and thrive in the SEC. Nussmeier has shown that he has the talent to play in the SEC and is maturing as a leader after 2 seasons as a backup.

Howard hasn’t yet had an opportunity to show that the lofty expectations for him are warranted, but nor is there any reason to think those lofty expectations aren’t warranted.

The return of all 3 players would give head coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock a deep and talented quarterback room with which to work next season.

But will they all return?

Leaving a school before your eligibility has been exhausted is easier and more attractive than it has ever been. The portal already is filling up with talented quarterbacks.

Daniels, Nussmeier and Howard would have different reasons for considering moving, but it would be understandable if each of them took at least a few moments to ponder the possibility of playing elsewhere in 2023.

The only viable consideration for Daniels would be early entrance into the NFL Draft. After 3 erratic seasons at Arizona State he found a home in Denbrock’s offense and would be a strong favorite to retain the starting position next season.

He almost certainly has played himself into being a middle-round draft choice, but there’s no guarantee he would be a high draft choice.

A return to LSU likely would mean an even better season on an even better team, which would translate into a higher draft status.

Daniels needs to consider whether passing on NFL money for a year and delaying an inevitable professional apprenticeship for another season as a college starter is worth it.

Nussmeier’s immediate prospects will be significantly impacted by Daniels’ decision.

If Daniels stays, Nussmeier will have an uphill climb to start. If Daniels leaves, Nussmeier immediately becomes the favorite – though not a lock – to start.

The talented but sometimes reckless Nussmeier played poorly in the second game of the season when he replaced Daniels early in a rout against Southern, throwing 2 interceptions.

When he replaced an injured Daniels in the SEC Championship Game, he looked much more confident and decisive while trying to rally the Tigers from a 25-point deficit. He completed 15 of 27 for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns, though he threw an interception and lost a fumble.

Overall, the “December Nussmeier” looked significantly more polished than the “September Nussmeier.” He could have a bright future as the starting quarterback at LSU for multiple seasons, especially if Daniels enters the 2023 draft.

But if Daniels returns that could mean a 3rd season as a backup and it wouldn’t be surprising if Nussmeier went in search of another place where he would have a better chance of starting in 2023.

As for Howard, a second season in the system and a second competition in preseason camp could have him college ready by the fall of 2023.

But the odds would be against him beating out Daniels and Nussmeier if they both return. His chances of beating out one if the other were to go elsewhere still wouldn’t be great.

Howard will be just a redshirt freshman next season, so he has plenty of time to become the Tigers starter – if he’s patient.

He’s most likely to be the most patient of the 3, not just because he’s the youngest but also because he’s a legacy. His father, Jaime, was one of the most productive quarterbacks in Tigers history and Walker grew up in Lafayette, La., barely 50 miles from Tiger Stadium.

The decision to leave LSU and give up on the prospect of someday being the starting quarterback in Tiger Stadium won’t come as easily as it might to others.

A 4-star recruit – Rickie Collins of Woodlawn High in Baton Rouge – will be joining mix.

The question is whether he’ll find 1, 2 or 3 veterans there when he arrives.

View Comments

  • I don't think Daniels can become a higher draft pick even if he does return. He's reached his ceiling and should take the money for being a middle round draft pick. I am hoping that Kelly conveys this to him.

    Nussmeier gives LSU a much better chance to win it all in 2023. He can scramble good enough to extend or keep plays alive, and having Howard behind him would be awesome.

    I think Rickie Collins would be a career backup in college unless he eventually transfers to a G5 or FCS team.

  • We know what we have with Daniels, and it's wishful thinking to expect him to improve his game. He's had four years as a starter. What you see is what you get. Nussmeier shows promise, but he needs snaps to reach his potential. Snaps that Daniels has gotten instead. I'd like to see Daniels move on, and Nussmeier and Howard compete for QB1.

  • What’s absolutely clear is that LSU is the SEC West favorite next year. One of these cubes is coming back and the team has far less questions roster wise than Nikki-loves-the-portal Saban. It would seem Daniels would be NFL bound clearing the way for Nussmeier.

  • I think JD should go. He was the QB we needed this yr as the O-Line was very poor early on. His legs were much needed. But LSU had the most talented WR room in CFB this yr and will again next yr. Having a QB be your leading rusher is counterproductive given the elite WRs. The offense opens up and functions better when the QB is actually completing passes. The RBs face less crowded boxes and can actually be productive and explosive.

    LSU needed JD to start this yr. Now we need him to leave.

  • Daniels won’t be the starting QB at LSU next year. It will be Nuss or Howard. Howard is a stud. He broke his leg in Oct ‘21 and is probably just now completely over it.

    • There’s a big difference between HS and SEC football. Howard hasn’t even taken a snap yet. I’m hopeful that Nuss starts next season and has a great year. Howard can be his backup. Nuss can then go pro and Howard can take over.

      • Ditto that w Collins coming for more competition. The O line should be upgraded or deeper w recruiting and the portal which should make us much better. It's the Defensive secondary that's of major concern now. Go Tigers !

  • We appreciate all that Daniels did for LSU behind a scratch work of an offensive line. Nobody ran for his life better. However, he's capped out. As this line improves, and can really support a QB, LSU needs better upside. Nuss and Howard are your keepers.

    • A spring w a healthy Boutte, all 3 qbs working w all the receivers, we'd be QB U. Start Nuss, Daniels platooning special situations. Then whoever has the hot hand like old times. Howard inserted for at least a series for gametime experience. Collins redshirt. How can anyone prepare for us ? BK has to expand his mindset. Injuries at Qb you plug and play. Everybody's ready. It's how Burrows and receivers .... summer 2019.

Published by
Les East