LSU quarterback TJ Finley is planning on entering the NCAA transfer portal, sources confirmed with The Advocate, a decision that will come just under a month after spring football concluded.
The news was first reported by WVUE-TV.
The Tigers entered the offseason with a four-man quarterback competition, and, after senior Myles Brennan and sophomore Max Johnson excelled in the spring game, it appeared those two had secured a lead over Finley and freshman Garrett Nussmeier going into the summer.
Now, the Tigers will begin fall camp with just three scholarship quarterbacks competing for the starting job before LSU opens the season at UCLA on Sept. 4.
The NCAA Board of Directors ratified the much-anticipated one-time transfer rule last week, which put into immediate effect legislation that allows players to transfer to another university and play immediately if it's the first time the player has transferred. Finley told WBRZ that he will be making a decision on his next school soon.
Finley started in five games as a freshman last season, stepping in for Brennan when he suffered a season-ending abdominal muscle tear against Missouri in the third game of the season. Finley won the job over Johnson at the time, but after inconsistent play over his five starts, LSU coach Ed Orgeron started Johnson in the final two games of the season.
The 6-foot-6, 242-pound Finley, a Ponchatoula High graduate, had a 2-3 record as a starter and completed 80-of-140 passes for 941 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.
Johnson then led LSU to come-from-behind victories against Florida and Ole Miss, and Orgeron rewarded Johnson with the first snaps of spring football because of his 2-0 record — an honor Orgeron later would say was purely symbolic and had no weight on the coaching staff's decision on who the starting quarterback in 2021 would eventually be.
All four quarterbacks shared equal snaps with the first team during LSU's spring game, and Orgeron insisted the competition would continue into fall camp, although there would be more separation into who would get more first team looks.
Brennan completed 12-of-20 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown in the scrimmage, Johnson completed 11-of-17 for 180 yards and two touchdowns, while Finley completed 10-of-19 passes for 84 yards and two interceptions.
"I think that when we come back to camp, we're going to have to designate a certain amount of reps for certain guys," Orgeron said. "Give the first and second guy more reps. I think that's going to be a process during camp. I don't know what part of camp it's going to happen. But we're going to have to give the first and second guy more reps to see who's going to be the starter."
Finley's decision isn't unprecedented, particularly in an era where several high-profile college players have sought playing time elsewhere once they realized they had less chance to play at their former school.
Jalen Hurts transferred to Oklahoma from Alabama, which started Tua Tagovailoa. Kelly Bryant transferred to Missouri from Clemson, which started Trevor Lawrence. Tate Martell left Ohio State for Miami once Justin Fields took hold of the Buckeyes.
LSU's quarterback room was also cut in half in 2018 when Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse transferred during fall camp. McMillan went on to start in six games at Tulane. Narcisse is now at UT-San Antonio.
Part of the reason why Orgeron re-hired Austin Thomas as general manager this offseason was to create a strategy that maintains a successful team in the transfer era.
LSU has been actively recruiting toward a stable of quarterbacks in what can be seen as a proactive response to the changing factors of roster management in today's game. The Tigers have three underclassmen behind Brennan. Five-star Walker Howard is committed to LSU's 2022 class. Quarterback royalty Arch Manning is a top target in 2023.