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BATON ROUGE – LSU has four quarterbacks on scholarship, and after the spring game Saturday, the question looms. How long will that last?
The deadline to enter the NCAA Transfer Portal is May 1, which is a week from Sunday.
Could LSU go into the summer and 2022 season with four scholarship quarterbacks? That would be a rarity in today’s age of the portal.
Sixth-year senior Myles Brennan appears to be the favorite to start. Junior Jayden Daniels just got here from Arizona State through the portal. True freshman Walker Howard also just got here.
So, if a quarterback would transfer, it is my bet that would be redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier, but he has made a move in recent weeks to move into at least the No. 2 spot. Either that or a better chance at the No. 1 spot somewhere else.
“We didn’t clear up anything with the quarterbacks,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said after the LSU offense beat the defense, 59-31, in a strange defensive scoring setup in front of about 20,000 on one side of Tiger Stadium. “We probably made it even more difficult.”
Brennan completed 11 of 17 passes for 99 yards with an 11-yard touchdown to wide receiver Malik Nabers.
Nussmeier completed 9 of 16 for 136 yards with an 8-yard touchdown to wide receiver Jack Bech.
Daniels completed 3 of 9 passes for 68 yards with a 20-yard touchdown to Bech and rushed seven times for 34 yards, excluding sacks.
Howard hit 3 of 7 passes for 59 yards with a 55-yard touchdown to walk-on tailback Corren Norman that traveled about 20 or 25 yards in the air.
No one was great. No one was bad.
LSU Quarterback Position Needs Sorting Out
“Brennan was good today, right? He does really good things with the football,” Kelly said. “He knows the offense. He’s smart. He takes care of it. Nussmeier’s athletic ability, his arm strength. Daniels is really, really fast, and Walker’s got one of the strongest arms on the team. So, I don’t know if we cleared up anything there.”
And here’s the kicker, barring injuries, only one of the three or four quarterbacks is most likely going to play most of the time, because Kelly does not like two-quarterback systems and has rarely used them. His offensive coordinator, Mike Denbrock, said playing two was a possibility recenty, but don’t bet on it.
“Ugh,” Kelly said with a weary sigh before a question about playing two quarterbacks was even done. He followed that with another deep sigh before answering.
“Nightmares. Nightmares. I’ve played two. Yes,” Kelly said. “It’s not easy. It’s not easy. I mean, it has to be a situation where you have to do it. I’d much rather just play one quarterback and try to fit the offense to their traits over somebody else. The two-quarterback situation is so difficult to manage, honestly.”
So, Brennan starts, and Nussmeier is No. 2 with Daniels playing in short-yardage situations. And Howard observes for a year and red-shirts.
Nussmeier, who has shown flashes since last August, just needs to be patient. Anything can happen. Brennan could get hurt again. That tends to happen to him, but that’s why it may finally not happen. Daniels has another year at LSU after this season, so he needs to stick.
Between now and May 1, Nussmeier has a decision to make. Kelly has many decisions to make before Florida State on Sept. 4, but if he keeps a final four of quarterbacks, he has depth and he has options.
He also has a host of other positions to worry about. His backfield and offensive line did display signs of improvement Saturday compared to last season. Tre Bradford gained 85 yards on nine carries, Armoni Goodwin gained 71 yards on nine carries.
“Those backs run really hard. You’ve got to tackle them. You better get our backs on the ground. You saw that today. They can catch the ball,” Kelly said. “I thought the offensive line got better as the game went on.”
The receivers shined in spots, too.
“They can go get the football,” he said. “We need to be a little bit mentally tougher play in and play out. But they can compete at a high level.”
It would have been nice to talk to some of the quarterbacks, running backs or receivers, but Kelly did not allow any interviews. Funny, LSU kept announcing in the pressbox during the spring game not to interview players on the field with the assumption they would be available outside the locker room. Nice little misdiretion by Kelly. Hope to see more of that on the field during real games.
Meanwhile, the offensive line and secondary appear to be weaknesses.
“It’s going to be a competitive football team,” said Kelly, who inherits an 11-12 outfit. “We have some holes, and those holes need to be addressed. I’ll get a deeper dive on this over the next couple of days. I always try to get through the spring and know my weaknesses because I don’t want any surprises as I go into camp. We’ll continue to work on some things that continue to be in my eye some weaknesses, but they bring some traits across the board that I think are highly competitive.”
It’s going to be fun in 2022 for LSU. It’s going to be interesting. It will be better than the last two seasons. But it won’t be great. I’m sticking with eight wins.
But one thing is clear. The program is headed in the right direction again after a two-year mess that had nothing to do with the pandemic.