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Of the 14 SEC football head coaches in 2017 when quarterback Myles Brennan began his LSU career, only three remain – Alabama’s Nick Saban, Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops.
Gone are Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Florida’s Jim McElwain, LSU’s Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss’ Matt Luke, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Missouri’s Barry Odom, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp, Tennessee’s Butch Jones, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason. Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi State and Tennessee are each on their third coach since 2017.
Not one LSU coach from 2017 remains. None from 2018, ’19 and ’20 either, for that matter.
But Brennan, 23, keeps coming back. He just opened his fifth spring practice at LSU last week by taking the first snap. Because of COVID-related NCAA waivers, he will be entering his sixth season next fall after redshirting in 2018, missing all but three games of 2020 with an injury and all of 2021 with an injury.
“Seniority to start,” new LSU coach Brian Kelly said of his quarterback rotation on the first day of practice. “First in to last in.”
Brennan won that battle by four years. He played his first game for LSU on Sept. 2, 2017, in a 27-0 win over Brigham Young, completing a 12-yard pass, and played in five more games as a backup to Danny Etling.
LSU’s next most experienced quarterback is Arizona State graduate transfer Jayden Daniels, who started from 2019-21 for the Sun Devils and is likely to win the job at LSU. Garrett Nussmeier, who played in four games last season as a freshman, is next, followed by freshman signee Walker Howard.
Brennan had a chance to start in 2021, but was not expected to beat out more mobile sophomore Max Johnson for the No. 1 job. He took himself out of the picture when he broke his left, non-throwing arm just before August practices on a fishing trip when he stumbled on a deck. He entered the NCAA transfer portal months later, but didn’t get a lot of tugs on the line.
Then Johnson transfered to Texas A&M, and Kelly convinced him to return to LSU.
“We started with just wanting to add more competition,” Kelly said. “He’s changed his body. He’s healthy.”
Then he recounted what he told Brennan when he recruited him back.
“Look, nobody has the starting position,” he told him. “Go earn it. You’ve worked hard.. You’re an outstanding quarterback. Why can’t it be you?”
Could the sixth time be the charm for Brennan? He is older, but he is inexperienced and unlucky.
“I feel great,” he said on Saturday. “My arm feels great. I’ve gotten it back into shape. I’ve lost the weight I needed to lose.”
That left arm no longer bothers him.
“I honestly don’t even know it’s there anymore,” he said. “I’m really just focusing on getting the muscles around the bone stronger just to be able to protect it. The plate’s still in there, so I don’t have to worry about the bone breaking again.”
Brennan appeared on his way as the heir apparent to Joe Burrow in 2020 when he started the first three games of the season and was No. 7 in the nation in efficiency at 154.7 on 79-of-131 passing for 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions. But another freakish injury – this to his abdomen – from a collision at Missouri ended his season. He’s over that injury, too.
“Totally, I mean, I kind of want to get hit there,” he said. “I kind of miss the feeling of what it feels like to get hit.”
Or what it feels like to just play in a game. He has missed LSU’s last 20 games – 13 last season in a 6-7 season and the last seven in 2020 in a 5-5 campaign. He has started only those three games in 2020 in his five-year career. As a backup to Etling in 2017 and Burrow in 2018 and ’19, he entered only one game that was not already decided – in 2017 in a loss to Troy.
“I’m appreciative of them giving me an opportunity,” Brennan said.
He just needs to remember to hit the roster refresh button. Other than Brennan, only safety Todd Harris remains on LSU’s team from the 2017 signing class. Harris also got an extra year because of COVID-related NCAA waivers after injuries scratched his 2019 season.
“I mentioned Danny Etling in the quarterback room a couple days ago, and they looked at me, ‘Who the heck is that guy?’ I guess some of these guys were in eighth grade when I was a freshman here,” Brennan said.
Brennan may lack significant playing time, but he probably can talk offense with LSU’s coaches better than LSU’s other quaterbacks. Denbrock is Brennan’s fourth offensive coordinator at LSU. There was Matt Canada in 2017, Steve Ensminger from 2018-20 and Jake Peetz in 2021.He also is on his fourth passing game coordinator – Joe Brady in 2019, Scott Linehan in 2020, D.J. Mangas in 2021 and Cortez Hankton in 2022.
Oh, and he considers Kelly his third LSU head coach. Brennan committed to Les Miles in June of 2016 as the No. 12 pro style quarterback in the nation from St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Miles was fired four games into the 2016 season, and Brennan played for Ed Orgeron from 2017-21. Now Kelly.
“It’s really nothing new for me,” he said. “I mean, it’s year six. This is offense five. This is offensive coordinator four, head coach three.”
But Brennan has noticed one key difference about Kelly.
“First off, Coach Kelly being involved in our quarterback drills,” he said. “I mean, that’s something I’ve never experienced with a head coach here – having the head coach critiquing quarterbacks during their drills. And him actually having the knowledge to coach us during our drills. I mean from footwork to arm slots, to arm angle, to throwing to our drops, to weight transfer. It’s been awesome.”