It was the best 15 minutes of quarterback practice you ever saw.
That’s what a fellow reporter said after watching Joe Burrow throw the ball during LSU’s individual drills Saturday. Tongue firmly planted in cheek, for the record.
Not to say the Ohio State transfer did not look sharp. He gave no reason to doubt that he is the answer to the Tigers’ urgent prayers for a strong hand to take over the quarterback position this season. He was on target with the short-hashmark-to-sideline stuff and the long stuff, hitting Drake Davis in stride at one point with a 50-yard bomb during individual drills.
The much anticipated LSU quarterback battle began Saturday, when the team began preseason football camp at 4 p.m.
When LSU began preseason camp Saturday afternoon, Ohio State graduate transfer quarterback Joe Burrow started from the bottom.
But in the immortal words of Allen Iverson, we’re talking about practice. And the first day of practice at that. With players in shorts, throwing passes against air — not Southeastern Conference defenses stocked with future Saints and Eagles and Steelers and Patriots.
It would be easy to run over to the nearby Mississippi River levee — which the Tigers actually did this summer as part of their conditioning work — and take a deep dive into the turbulent waters of overheated expectations and impressions about practice. The. First. Day. Of. Practice.
Overall, it was a spirited show. The Tigers ran, not walked, from drill to drill, urged on by the bellows from Ed Orgeron (in his element again by choice, helping coach the defensive line, thoroughly enjoying himself), new wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan and new safeties coach Bill Busch.
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Those were among the most vocal staff members. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda was off in a corner of the practice field somewhere, well beyond earshot, The Professor whispering sweet logarithms into his linebackers’ ears, as is his wont.
Orgeron, for all his natural bass drum enthusiasm, did not spill over the precipice of over effusive talk about practice. He was confident, but everyone is confident in August when their team is 0-0.
It was a good day, but Orgeron said some things could have been better, like pass protection (more on the offensive line shortly). And he wished the steamy but mostly cloudy summer afternoon could have been hotter to better test his players’ endurance and conditioning.
As for the quarterbacks, Orgeron let everyone know that Burrow was starting on the ground floor as the fourth quarterback in the rotation. The dance card will reshuffle Sunday, but on this day it was Justin McMillan at No. 1 (for what it’s worth, he had the best of a “meh” LSU spring game, leading to Burrow’s transfer), followed by Myles Brennan and Lowell Narcisse.
Based on experience, it was the only way to go — McMillan is a junior, Brennan a sophomore, Narcisse a redshirt freshman and Burrow the newcomer taking his first snaps in a gold no-contact jersey. Psychologically, it also sends a message to all four that Orgeron has consistently hammered home: Burrow has been promised nothing, and he will have to compete his way to the top of the depth chart.
From what little we saw Saturday, it does not look like an ascent up Kilimanjaro for the former Buckeye. But the politics and optics of the situation demand that he gets his start as an entry-level underling.
Quarterback is but one of many questions for this LSU football team to answer in a momentous August that will give way to a momentous football season in this program’s quest to reassert itself among the national powers. Some concerns are bigger than others, but one of the assumed strengths isn’t getting off to a positive start.
Orgeron announced Friday that projected starting right guard Ed Ingram has been suspended indefinitely for violating the proverbial team rules. Coach O wouldn’t describe Ingram’s transgressions, but they are serious enough that the coach allowed the matter was out of his hands, as in a student conduct decision. And serious enough that Ingram was not even listed on the roster LSU’s sports information staff distributed before Saturday’s practice began.
Ingram’s void was filled by junior college transfer Damien Lewis, and freshman Chasen Hines flipped from defense to take Lewis’ spot as backup left guard behind Garrett Brumfield. There is always shuffling aplenty in August and LSU has options, but Ingram’s absence certainly has the ominous appearance of a long-term or permanent situation. And that’s not how you want to get this season off the ground.
Bandele Alexander couldn't believe it.
The best news, LSU has 18 more practice days before a game week (the season opener is Sept. 2 against Miami in Arlington, Texas).
Eighteen more days is plenty of time. There's more time to best figure out how to address LSU's shortcomings and make a more accurate assessment of this team. There's more time than was possible on Day 1.