Max Johnson may indeed start for the first time at quarterback in the LSU's Saturday game against Florida.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron indicated earlier this week that the Tigers may make a switch at quarterback, and, on Thursday, he told reporters that all signs point to Johnson starting in place of TJ Finley, although an official decision hasn't been made yet.
"We'll talk about it but it looks like it's going to be Max," Orgeron said. "We haven't made the final decision yet. Max has been practicing with the first team. TJ has been getting the second set of reps. We could go either way, but it looks like it's going to be Max."
Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 219-pound true freshman, has played in relief of Finley in LSU's last two games, and, after leading late scoring drives against Texas A&M and Alabama, he seems to have earned his chance to start.
“I think that's something we’re going to give consideration to this week and look at it," Orgeron said Monday. "I thought Max played very well. Also TJ did some things. That is something we’re going to give consideration for this week.”
Finley won what Orgeron called "a very close" position battle with Johnson after starting quarterback Myles Brennan suffered an abdominal injury against Missouri.
The 6-foot-6, 242-pound true freshman from Ponchatoula High seemed to solidify his spot as LSU's starter with an impressive performance in the team's 52-24 win over South Carolina.
Finley was 17-of-21 passing for 265 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against the Gamecocks — a game Orgeron called "excellent" that was bolstered by an effective run game that produced 276 yards on the ground.
Finley has since regressed against LSU's toughest opponents. He threw two interceptions each against Auburn and Texas A&M, which both pressured him heavily and forced defensive touchdowns.
Orgeron spoke sternly with him on the sideline against Texas A&M, after he threw a pick-six when he tried to throw a desperate pass while getting wrapped up by a defender.
"Just protect the football," Orgeron said he told Finley. "Don't throw the ball away like that. It was a freshman mistake, but I wanted him to learn."
Johnson played the rest of the game and led the Tigers on a 14-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Terrace Marshall, who opted out the remainder of the season the next day.
Against Alabama, Johnson entered the game in the third quarter when the Crimson Tide led 52-14. He was 11-of-17 for 110 yards in the game and led the Tigers on a drive that resulted in a 52-yard field goal by Cade York.
Despite Johnson's steady performance in a game that was already out of hand, Orgeron said he was still somewhat pleased with how Finley played against Alabama.
Finley led LSU on a promising opening drive that ended when Ty Davis-Price was stuffed for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the Alabama 15. Orgeron has since said that LSU should've used Finley's frame on a quarterback sneak for the yardage.
LSU's offense also showed signs of explosiveness against Alabama with Finley at quarterback. He completed a 43-yard pass to Kayshon Boutte, who was wide open on the sideline, that resulted in a touchdown. The following drive, John Emery wove through the Alabama defense for a 54-yard touchdown run to draw LSU within 28-14 at the start of the second quarter.
Still, LSU punted in each of the following five drives. LSU gained a total of 35 yards in the drives and went three-and-out on four of them.
Finley was 4-of-12 passing for 26 yards during LSU's scoring drought, in which he was also sacked three times. Johnson entered the game after Finley completed a 1-yard pass to tight end Arik Gilbert, who lost a fumble at the LSU 34.