LSU’s starting quarterback competition is over.
The winner was the odds-on favorite, and the backup is a first-year player.
Fifth-year senior Danny Etling will start at quarterback, and freshman Myles Brennan will enter his first collegiate season as the immediate backup, coach Ed Orgeron announced on Tuesday.
Brennan was a "very close" second, the coach said, in a quarterback competition that spanned LSU's three-week preseason camp. He named Brennan and fellow freshman Lowell Narcisse as the immediate backups behind Etling, hoping to get them both playing time this season.
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The competition, though, is completely over, Orgeron says. Barring injury or erratic play, Etling is the starter for the length of the season.
"Consistency, knowing the offense, being around the team," Orgeron said when asked why Etling won the gig. "After the surgery, he came back and must have worked throughout the summer, night and day. Competition helped him get better. (Offensive coordinator) Matt (Canada) feels like he’s throwing the ball better since his operation, the understanding and being a fifth year senior.
"We want Myles and Lowell to grow at their own pace. We don’t’ want to rush them when they’re not ready."
Etling accomplished what many expected, claiming the starting gig from a group that included the two rookies and redshirt sophomore Justin McMillan. Amid the camp battle, redshirt freshman Lindsey Scott left the school, signing with a Mississippi junior college last week.
Etling brought stability last season to an erratic position for the Tigers, starting 10 games after replacing struggling quarterback Brandon Harris in Game 2. His completion percentage in 2016 (59.5) was better than the completion rate of LSU starting quarterbacks in six of the previous nine seasons. His average yards a game (193) eclipsed Harris’ average in 2015 and Anthony Jennings’ average in 2014. He took full advantage of the midseason shakeup to the Tigers offense last year.
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Etling's news was expected, despite him undergoing back surgery in April. Orgeron proclaimed Etling the leader in the battle through the summer and during the team’s three-week preseason camp. As recently as last week, he said the quarterback would “probably” be named the starter.
Etling will be the sixth different quarterback to start a season at the school in the last eight seasons, joining Harris (2015-16), Jennings (2014), Zach Mettenberger (2012-13), Jarrett Lee (2011) and Jordan Jefferson (2010). In three of the last six seasons, the starter at the beginning of the year did not finish the season as the starter.
Etling’s backup, meanwhile, is a rookie.
Brennan, the 6-foot-4 passer from the Mississippi coast who set a host of high school records, was the only real challenger to Etling’s spot. Coaches kept the job open during camp to give Brennan a shot, a promise they made to the quarterback during the recruiting process.
Brennan surpassed three players with his showing at camp, leaping Narcisse, a midyear enrollee who participated in spring, McMillan and Scott. Orgeron described the QB as a “natural passer,” and players have raved about his accuracy and arm strength.
"Danny is our starter. Danny goes in the game and flops, I don’t have a problem putting in Myles, but we don’t expect that," Orgeron said. "We expect Danny to do well."
On Monday, offensive coordinator Matt Canada said Brennan made a "tremendous jump" from LSU's second to third camp scrimmage and "looks calmer and more in charge of the offense."
Among the quarterbacks behind Etling, a clear separation emerged in August. Brennan’s production and opportunities skyrocketed from the first camp scrimmage (1-fo-4), to the second (4-of-8, 107) to Saturday’s third (10-of-20, 122). Meanwhile, McMillan’s opportunities seemed to plummet.
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The backup in spring, McMillan attempted two passes during the first scrimmage, and the coach did not reveal the quarterback’s stats from the last two scrimmages. Orgeron said Tuesday that McMillan is not "out of it," and that coaches "believe in him."
"We just feel Myles and Lowell had good camps," Orgeron said. "Excellent young quarterbacks."
Meanwhile, Narcisse is being used in practice and scrimmages as a running option at the quarterback position, Orgeron said. He scored a rushing touchdown in the scrimmage, and the coach has openly discussed his potential role moving forward, stopping short of guaranteeing him playing time in 2017.
Orgeron told both quarterback in separate meetings Monday before telling the team.
"I brought Myles in and told him," Orgeron said. "He understood. I brought Danny in. He was excited. I told him to call his daddy. Told the team and they cheered like everything else."
Three times in the last six seasons, LSU’s starting quarterback in Game 1 did not finish the year as the team’s starter.
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QB to end season
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