The next LSU quarterback has been waiting in plain sight, an heir to Tiger Stadium's most lofty throne for quite some time.
Surely, it feels every bit like the four years it's been since Myles Brennan became the handpicked recruit of then-offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, an assistant coach who didn't last long enough in Baton Rouge to see his prized quarterback sign scholarship paperwork.
It's been three years since Brennan was retained in the dramatic transition of head coaches — the firing of Les Miles, the hiring of Ed Orgeron — and entered an uncertain future that was murkier than a stagnant swamp.
The LSU Board of Supervisors athletics committee approved new contracts for head football coach Ed Orgeron, defensive coordinator Bo Pelini an…
Brennan was among the images of hope back then. Remember? A potential savior from a series of subpar signal-callers that plagued the Tigers offense throughout the previous decade.
He had the will, the arm, the pedigree for a rejuvenation story that would've been nothing short of poetic, had it come to pass.
A blue blood of Louisiana's restaurant royalty, Brennan is the descendant of an Irish family that filled the streets and sidewalks and alleyways of New Orleans' French Quarter with aromatic promises of Creole cuisine and Bananas Foster, the great-grandson of Owen Brennan, the founding father of the Krewe of Bacchus.
Hurricane Katrina forced Brennan and his immediate family out of nearby Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and he'd eventually shatter all of Mississippi's high school passing records, offering up similar promises for Louisianans who craved to win again.
Ja'Marr Chase will next wear LSU's coveted No. 7 jersey.
Those years do seem so far away, walled off by the highlights and memories of the Ohio State graduate transfer who delivered LSU's fourth national championship instead.
There is no ill will between Brennan and his family against Joe Burrow, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner whom Orgeron signed in the spring of 2018, back when Brennan believed he was the starter-to-be.
In the next two seasons, Brennan and Burrow became competitors, roommates on the road, friends.
But even in the days before LSU's championship win over Clemson in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the backup quarterback was ready to resume what he'd been in pursuit of all along.
"This is my team now," Brennan told his father, Owen III. "I love Joe and Joe did his job. But the day after the national championship, it's my team."
And so it is.
Spring football has begun, and for the first time in these long four years, Brennan appears to have earned the full confidence of Orgeron, who often said his patient player would be a championship quarterback in a matter of time.
"I expect Myles to explode," Orgeron said Wednesday. "I expect him to do all the things that he needs to do to be a great quarterback."
It is human nature to let out a big exhale after a big achievement.
Will Myles Brennan be the next Joe Burrow?
Some of you have asked a variation of that question, perhaps even in the minutes leading up to now.
Orgeron has already given an answer, albeit an expected one, aimed to temper pressure and expectation.
"We want Myles to just be the best Myles Brennan," he said on national signing day.
Redshirt freshman Dare Rosenthal, who’s expected to start at left tackle for LSU next season, will not participate in spring football practice.
There was already enough pressure and expectation when Brennan was sitting on the bench.
All he had to do was miss a Monday and Tuesday practice in late September last season, and rumors among LSU fans stirred that Brennan had possibly entered the NCAA transfer portal.
Brennan returned to practice that Wednesday and posted a sardonic message on Twitter that read: "BREAKING NEWS: I'm not transferring.. Never have thought about it and don't see myself doing so."
BREAKING NEWS: I’m not transferring.. Never have thought about it and don’t see myself doing so.— Myles Brennan (@MylesBrennan) September 26, 2019
Even the sideline wasn't safe from scrutiny.
During Orgeron's call-in radio show in mid-November, a caller claimed Brennan wasn't wearing a headset on the sideline when Burrow, offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and former passing game coordinator Joe Brady were game-planning during timeouts.
The call provoked a response from Brennan on Twitter, a message (he later deleted) that said he'd always worn a headset on the sideline, always would.
It seemed an invisible line was being drawn, separating Burrow from Brennan, categorizing No. 9 into the level of elites and raising doubts about whether No. 15 could uphold that standard.
So, as Brennan becomes LSU's future, perhaps it is necessary to revisit the past. To question and recall and uncover the moments that preceded Burrow's arrival. To understand whether Myles Brennan can be the next Joe Burrow.
Or form a picture of who the best Myles Brennan can be.
Significant position changes -- most notably, last year's Joe Burrow back-up stepping into the lead quarterback role -- were the focus of LSU …
'A tough, tough dude'
Gabe Fertitta and Bill Conides pored over playbooks, building a solution to the worst football season in Saint Stanislaus High School history.
The Rockachaws went 0-9 in 2012, Fertitta's second season as head coach and Conides' first as the team's offensive coordinator.
Together, the coaches constructed a modern spread offense with run-pass-option schemes — the same type of offense Brady built in tandem with Ensminger at LSU almost a decade later.
The system had "to go through the quarterback," said Conides. They needed to build the offense around a signal-caller who could handle the demands of the position.
Their first quarterback? An eventual junior college player named Tyler Allen.
The second? A lanky sophomore who'd become the greatest statistical quarterback in the history of Mississippi high school football.
Fertitta said he taught Myles Brennan in seventh-grade English, a class that "beat them over the head with grammar" and had students go around town and take pictures of grammatical errors in public places.
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Myles was a goofy, outgoing kid — the youngest son of a Tulane linebacker and a Tulane volleyball and women's basketball player. His mother, Megan, was the first woman to earn an athletic scholarship for the Green Wave.
His oldest brother, Bo, had been a scrambling quarterback at Saint Stanislaus, a walk-on at Ole Miss whose football career ended after a series of injuries.
Bo, Myles and the third brother, Hunter, all inherited some of their family's entrepreneurship, mowing the lawns of neighbors and the local golf club.
Myles once bought a pink golf cart from a friend with the intention to paint it or sell it, Owen said. Over time, Myles just got used to driving it around and took on a unique, tough-guy personality: Screw it. I dare someone to say something to me about the color.
He grew up a sportsman, joining his immediate family on weeks-long trips to duck leases, deer leases and fishing camps. To this day, the outdoors is his solace during breaks in the LSU football season, and his social media accounts will suddenly buzz with pictures of him holding a half-dozen duck carcasses, his long, blonde hair shining in the sun.
"Don't let the surfer boy look fool you," Fertitta said. "He is a tough, tough dude."
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Myles was competitive at everything, Owen said. He'd even compete with his brothers to see who could reach the TV first to change the channel. As a pitcher, shortstop and third baseman in travel ball, his teams always ended up winning the league championship.
He started his football career during the family's three-year stay in Destin, Florida, following Hurricane Katrina, and he started out as a wide receiver because that was one of the only positions left when he arrived midseason.
Then, once the family moved back to Mississippi, Myles' middle school coach moved him to quarterback when he chased down a football during practice and hurled it back from about 60 yards away.
"It was evident the first day we went out there for junior high practice that he could sling it," Fertitta said. "I think that is one of his biggest physical attributes is the arm strength."
LSU coach Ed Orgeron has often praised Myles Brennan for his work behind the scenes as a backup quarterback to Joe Burrow in the past two seasons.
Conides remembers certain plays in high school where Brennan would roll out to his left, against his body, then flick a pass 50 yards for a touchdown, easy.
Together, they started a daily training routine. For about 350 days a year, Conides said, they'd find a practice field, a park, anywhere, to work on footwork, mechanics and in-game situations.
And so, a 15-year-old Brennan began his high school career as the unknown quarterback of a Class 4A school that opened the 2014 season against Class 6A Hancock High.
Brennan threw for 456 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-32 win, the first victory of a season that ended with a loss in the state championship game.
By the end of his career, Brennan set more than 10 state records, including career yards passing (15,138) and career touchdowns passing (166) — records once held by Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre's nephew, Dylan.
"It was one of those things where it was, 'There's no way we're gonna break that record, it's stupid,’ ” Conides said. "And then we end up breaking the record."
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'He believes in the process'
It was Tyler Allen's job to prepare his old teammate to be the starting quarterback at LSU in the summer of 2017.
Yes, the quarterback who started at Saint Stanislaus during Myles Brennan's freshman year wound up getting hired by Cameron as an LSU student assistant (Matt Canada then retained him).
Every day, for 45 minutes before lunchtime, Brennan went over to Allen's office and spent extra time learning LSU's new offensive playbook. As a June arrival, it was going to take some cramming for Brennan to beat out incumbent starter, Danny Etling, who had an average in 2016, during which the Tigers went 8-4.
"He'd hammer everything he needed to know," said Allen, now a quarterbacks coach at Jacksonville State, "so when it came down for fall camp, he was ready to go and try and compete for the job and beat Danny out."
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The tools and talent were there for Brennan once preseason camp began, but Orgeron ultimately sided with the experienced Etling, an investment of precaution in his true freshman quarterback.
"It would have been bad for Myles to go out there and then be awful and kind of ruin him for the future," Allen said.
Brennan still played sparingly in six games in 2017. He showed the most promise against Syracuse, going 4-of-6 passing for 75 yards in a 35-26 win — one in which Brennan led the offense toward a touchdown on one drive and threw an interception on another.
His playing time dropped significantly once consistent Southeastern Conference play began, after he threw a late interception in LSU's notorious 24-21 upset against Troy.
Still, the opportunities were "good for his growth," Allen said, and even after Orgeron and Canada mutually parted ways after that season, Brennan entered the spring of 2018 as the apparent front-runner for the starting job under the newly appointed Ensminger.
Continuing our projection of the LSU Tigers' two-deep for the 2020 season, we move to defense.
However, Orgeron declined to name a starter after spring practice concluded, saying no one among Brennan and former LSU quarterbacks Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse separated himself.
Orgeron then signed Burrow away from Ohio State, the beginning of a four-man quarterback battle that led to the transfers of McMillan and Narcisse.
That summer, Owen said, was "probably the most difficult time" for Brennan — an unexpected adversity that, in hindsight, no one can argue with, given the results for the program.
And Brennan had more time to develop. He bulked up the 6-foot-5, 177-pound frame he entered college with up to more than 200 pounds. He pushed an eventual Heisman Trophy winner behind the scenes, enough to earn Orgeron's attention.
"Everything's starting to click for him in his third year," Orgeron said in August. "I feel like if he were to come in at any time this year, we'll feel comfortable."
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And Brennan played more in 2019 than he ever had, appearing in 10 games, completing 24 of 40 passes for 353 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
"He looks way more comfortable than he did his freshman year in the pocket," Allen said. Brennan is confident in his decision-making — no longer throwing the football, then backing away from hits.
It seemed like a passing of the torch when Burrow exited late the Texas A&M game to a standing ovation, giving way to Brennan's 58-yard touchdown pass to Racey McMath.
Brennan and Burrow embraced on the sideline.
"Myles has said this many times himself: He believes in the process," Owen said. "He believes God has a plan, and he's sticking to it. That's the way he justifies it to himself: God is not giving me this talent and not going to let me shine. ... Truthfully, that's what he believes, and that's why I know it's about to happen. I know that he's about to show people that he's the real deal."