JacksonvilleStateLSU.adv HS 1857.JPG

LSU quarterback Danny Etling (16) warms up on the sideline before going into the game in the second quarter against Jacksonville State, Saturday, September 10, 2016, at LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

Don’t play Danny Etling in Madden.

At least that’s what LSU left guard Will Clapp says. In the popular video game, Etling knows all the formations and can dissect his opponent’s coverages. He makes checks at the line of scrimmage with his virtual quarterback. By the end of the first quarter of a recent game between the two, Etling was up 28-0.

“It’s ridiculous,” the playfully irritated offensive lineman said.

“Does it help Etling’s game preparation?” a reporter asked.

“I don’t know about that,” Clapp said with a smile. “But I’ll tell you what: I might not be throwing some blocks for him if he keeps beating me like that.”

Perhaps the video game only adds to what the workaholic quarterback does to make himself ready for situations like last Saturday against Jacksonville State, an outing that has likely won him the starting job for at least this week.

Coach Les Miles indicated Wednesday that Etling will "take the first snap" against Mississippi State (1-1) on Saturday.

Etling hadn’t played in a collegiate game since Sept. 27, 2014, when he completed 11 of 26 passes for 61 yards and an interception in a loss to Iowa. Yet he stepped in against the Gamecocks early in the second quarter and connected on 6 of his first 8 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.

"I always knew that whenever he gets in the game, whenever that was, that he was going to be a player to make plays for the team," said cornerback Tre'Davious White. "Because he did some things last year that made us, the first defense, look crazy."

Was he nervous? Running back Derrius Guice said so.

“When you’re not the starter or the featured guy, you’re going to always be nervous when you get in, even at practice,” Guice said after Saturday's game. “Because he’s still new, so he still has a lot to learn. So whenever he does get in, I always know it. That’s why I’m the first one to tell him, ‘Just relax and calm down.’ ”

Center Ethan Pocic described his appearance in the huddle as “cool, calm and collected.” Etling wasn’t even particularly fired up after the game.

“He was actually kind of just normal,” Pocic said. “He was just normal, if that makes sense.”

That presence may go back to a work ethic he established when he arrived at LSU.

In fact, he doesn’t stop working, Clapp said. After lifting weights, Etling does yoga to keep himself flexible. Fullback J.D. Moore agreed with Clapp: He hasn’t seen anyone on the team outwork Etling.

“He definitely took advantage of the opportunity, but that didn’t surprise me at all,” Moore said. “The way he’s practiced and what I’ve seen from him the past couple of years being here and the way he prepares. He prepares as hard as anybody. So the fact that he was ready when his number was called wasn’t a surprise. But I could definitely see, because it was a big environment, he came to life.”

Moore said there wasn’t “that great of a disparity” between the first-team snaps Brandon Harris and Etling received leading up to the game. However, when Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron pulled Harris, Guice was initially puzzled when Etling broke the news to the offense on the sideline.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” Guice said. “He caught me off guard. I did not see that coming.”

Still, Etling’s new challenge will be one he couldn’t have possibly prepared for. The Big Ten isn’t the Southeastern Conference, Guice says. That new test starts Saturday against the Bulldogs. 

At the very least, though, he’s shown his teammates he won’t shy away from the moment.

“He has a calm presence,” Clapp said. “He doesn’t get rattled or anything like that. Having him there showed us a lot Saturday.”