LSU coach Ed Orgeron can't deny how well quarterback Danny Etling played in Tigers' regular season finale against Texas A&M.
In a 54-39 victory, Etling completed 20-of-28 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns. The Purdue transfer became the 14th LSU quarterback to pass for more than 300 yards in a game. He directed an offense that had six scoring drives of 60 yards or more on its way to 622 yards of total offense, the second most in a true road game in school history.
"Danny had a tremendous game, operating within the scheme of the offense," Orgeron said at his final radio show of the year Monday night. "He has a lot of confidence. Our team has a lot of confidence in Danny right now.”
But with newly-hired offensive coordinator Matt Canada set to install a new offense in 2017, Orgeron is willing to let a quarterback competition play out next season.
“What’s good is we have Matt Canada coming in, and he’ll be able to assess all the quarterbacks that are there," Orgeron said. "Obviously, we’ll be able to answer that question once he puts in his offense, sees the specific skills that each quarterback has."
LSU currently has four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster: Etling, junior Brandon Harris Harris, redshirt freshman Justin McMillan and freshman Lindsey Scott. The Tigers also have two quarterbacks verbally committed to their 2017 class: four-star prospects Myles Brennan and Lowell Narcisse.
Brennan is the nation’s 10th-best pro-style quarterback, while Narcisse is eighth-ranked dual-threat QB.
Canada, who will finish out his tenure as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator in the Pinstripe Bowl Wednesday, has worked with both pro-style and dual-threat quarterbacks in the past. Orgeron reiterated Monday that Canada will play the best quarterback available.
"Obviously, Danny is a starter right now, but that doesn’t mean the competition won’t be open and the best man may win," Orgeron said. "I’m sure coach Canada has a plan for each quarterback, and he’s going to see what plan helps us win best.”
Orgeron's re-recruitment of draft-eligible juniors is ongoing and may not end until the Jan. 16 deadline to declare for the NFL draft.
Without naming any specific players, the Tigers coach reiterated that there are certain LSU juniors who are leaning toward turning pro. Other juniors are more likely to return for their seniors season, he said.
“We’re recruiting all these juniors. Obviously, a lot of them are leaning on coming back, but they haven’t made their final decision. Some of them are leaning on going. Maybe some of them of are 75-80 percent (sure they are leaving), and we’re still working on them. We won’t know until declaration day.”
Orgeron also discussed Canada's involvement in the re-recruitment of juniors. Canada flew to Baton Rouge last week to have face-to-face conversations with several draft-eligible underclassmen.
"He said, ‘Coach, if you send me a plane after practice, I’m going to be there,'" Orgeron said. "He spent all night talking to our juniors – most of them in person, some of them of the phone. Flew back the next the day.”
LSU players will have to set their alarm clocks earlier than normal in the days leading up to the Citrus Bowl against Louisville.
Orgeron said the No. 19 Tigers (7-4) will hold morning practices to prepare for the 10 a.m. CST start time against the No. 15 Cardinals (9-3) in Orlando.
"We’ve had some early morning practices before, so we think we’re going to be in good shape," he said. "Now, the only thing we haven’t simulated is 82 degrees heat, but we think tomorrow we’re going to be in the heat, Wednesday we’re going to be in the heat, Thursday we’re going to be in the heat (and) Friday we’re going to be in the heat. We should be ready to go.”