This is part one of a multi-part series analyzing each of LSU Football’s position groups heading into the 2017 season. For this week’s edition, we will look at perhaps the biggest question mark surrounding the Tigers – the quarterback position. Nothing like starting off strong.
Who’s gone: Brandon Harris (transfer)
Who’s new: Lowell Narcisse (early enrollee – spring), Myles Brennan (summer arrival)
Ok, maybe calling the quarterback position the biggest question mark isn’t completely fair. After all, there isn’t truly a question about whether or not senior Danny Etling will start for LSU. He led the team for most of last year, and given the lack of experience in the ranks behind him, his starting position shouldn’t be in danger.
Etling’s status as starter became even more solidified when Brandon Harris – who will graduate in the spring – announced his decision to transfer from the program. Harris was thought to be the only true threat to challenge Etling for the starting gig in new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s system, based solely off of his talent alone. With him gone, Etling seems to be penciled in at the #1 spot, barring injury or an incredible summer performance from one of the less experienced quarterbacks on the roster.
Speaking of which, who else is there to turn to if Etling goes down? The list starts with, presumably, the next on the depth chart: Justin McMillan. McMillan is a redshirt sophomore and is the only other quarterbacks other than Etling to have attempted a pass in a college game. And that was it – just one pass.
If you want to take away a positive from that depressing lack of experience, McMillan did complete that one career pass attempt for 19 yards. The lefty isn’t a big quarterback by any standards – just 6-2 and 196 pounds – but he is the prototypical pocket-passer that could succeed in Canada’s system if given a chance. However, as stated before, he will most likely not get that chance this season unless Etling goes down or LSU is up big in a game.
After McMillan, there is even less of an option of a proven quarterback. Redshirt freshman Lindsey Scott, Jr. received a multitude of reps as the scout team quarterback last season, primarily mimicking the dual-threat quarterbacks LSU faced. He signed his letter of intent to the Tigers as Louisiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year after leading his high school to a state title the previous season. However, Scott’s size (he is listed at 5-11), and the younger, more talented quarterbacks coming in behind him may prevent him from seeing much time on the field as a Tiger, but could be the top option if Canada chooses to incorporate a mobile quarterback into his system.
Those two talented quarterbacks come in the form of Lowell Narcisse and Myles Brennan. Both are incoming 4-star freshmen, with Narcisse arriving early in the spring and Brennan stepping onto campus in the summer. Narcisse was rated the fifth-best dual-threat quarterback by ESPN, and Brennan was considered one of the top pocket passers by all of the major recruiting agencies. It is likely that both will redshirt in the 2017 season, although if one of them comes out and impresses the coaches from day one, there could be some shifting in the depth chart.
For now, however, the other names on this list don’t truly matter. Etling is the starter as of now, and will most likely be the starter come opening day. He needs to be more productive in the passing game than he was last year if the Tigers hope to challenge Alabama for the SEC crown. Etling was rarely a bad quarterback, he never committed head-scratching turnovers or have chains of misfires, but he was also rarely fantastic. He was a strict game manager last year, but if the Tigers hope to take strides forward, Etling needs to be able to make more than just the safe plays with his arm.