Following a 5-5 record in an odd, COVID-laden year, the LSU Tigers are expected to bounce back in 2021. After all, this program went undefeated and won a national title just two years ago.
The recruiting and overall talent on the roster seems to match the 2019 outcome more than it does that .500 record from a season ago.
Unfortunately, there has been a major hiccup in those bounce back plans. On Monday, news broke that Myles Brennan suffered a serious arm injury that will keep him out an extended period of time. Up to this point, the senior had been competing with sophomore Max Johnson for the starting QB job.
If you were to ask most prognosticators, Johnson was the likely starting candidate anyways. But I have two things to say about that: 1) I’m not entirely sure that’s true and 2) either way, competition makes players better, and now a young Johnson has no competition.
As things sit, there are three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster: Johnson, Brennan and Garrett Nussmeier, a highly-rated true freshman.
You may recognize that last name. Garrett is the son of Doug Nussmeier, the former offensive coordinator at places such as Washington, Alabama, Michigan and Florida. Doug is now the quarterbacks coach for the Dallas Cowboys.
Garrett was a four-star, top-100 prospect in the 2021 recruiting class. Despite his lean frame (6-foot-2, 172 pounds), he has plenty of long-term potential, but no one expected him to push Brennan or Johnson for the starting job in Year 1.
Garrett Nussmeier can be a good backup candidate, but Johnson no longer has to look over his shoulder about keeping the starting QB job. Former LSU TJ Finley could’ve been that guy, but he’s now playing for other Tigers, the Auburn Tigers, after transferring earlier this year.
Why was Finley such an important add for Auburn? He finally provides Bo Nix with some quality competition, something he hasn’t had since Joey Gatewood left for Kentucky prior to last season. Competition is a crucial component for success, and we’re not sure how much competition Nussmeier will provide for Johnson at LSU this season.
That isn’t me criticizing his long-term potential at LSU. I love his playmaking ability, both inside and outside the pocket, and I think he’s got a lot to look forward to in Baton Rouge. Hopefully he can provide the quality depth the Tigers need.
Otherwise, the LSU coaching staff are going to have to take a more timid approach with Johnson to ensure he stays healthy. Since he sometimes prefers to make plays with his legs (54 carries in six games last season), that could get tricky.
Will LSU force Johnson to play things safe? Probably, and as we saw with Bo Nix, that can take a young quarterback out of his comfort zone. Hopefully, the Tigers won’t run into that issue with Johnson.
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Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.