by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Rumors about transfers....
Questions without anyone willing to find the answers....
This was the scenario which greeted Garrett Nussmeier's 2022 off season transition:
Over 4 appearances his freshman year, blighted at times by typical debutant interceptions or overzealous play-extending histrionics, yet anchored by jaw dropping playmaking abilities & solid backfield dynamics, we witnessed Nussmeier's rising potential as a quarterback in the SEC.....but many believed he'd be transferring away from Baton Rouge before his time had even arrived.
Rumors abounded, with many considering Nussmeier "an odd man out" after Jayden Daniels' arrival; in fact...many expected his transfer before the end of spring....and yet, here he is.....still battling for LSU's starting quarterback job....
Criticism concerning his decision to keep his red shirt circled him, even from LSU Odyssey. While I wasn't criticizing his choice to retain his red shirt amid a nearly meaningless season, I did feel that his absence in the Texas Bowl was a hindrance to his development, as well as spoiling a perfect opportunity to make his mark:
If Jontre Kirklin tossed 3 TD passes vs K-State, including an 81 yard walk-off / flea flicker bomb, just imagine what Nussmeier would've been able to showcase against the overrated Wildcats....
Taking all the hushed whispers and rumors from the media world & fanbase with a grin & shrug, Nussmeier approached his first Spring under Head Coach Brian Kelly like a man possessed.
You didn't hear anyone within college football's intelligentsia endorsing Garrett Nussmeier as LSU's starter....not against two veterans like Myles Brennan, LSU's Chris Weinke (with far more talent, minus the championships) or Jayden Daniels, Arizona State's former QB over the past 2 1/2 seasons.
How could a red shirt freshman compete against those two veterans, let alone true freshman 5 star Walker Howard nipping at his heels??
Thanks to Garrett's foundation, two amazing parents, his mother Christi & NFL father Doug, his Christian faith & an overwhelming belief in himself, Nuss cowboy'd up, throwing strike after strike while proving his critics wrong.
Throughout Spring, Garrett rarely threw INTs during scrimmages or practices, a vast improvement after his first months at LSU became a turnover festival, with some labeling him a "hot shot / gunslinger QB" incapable of minimizing risk;
Now, Garrett really began to make the right decisions with the ball in his hands, finding targets quickly, accurately and keeping a rhythm to Mike Denbrock & Brian Kelly's embryonic offense.
Slowly but surely, despite heavy media favoritism toward Myles Brennan, Garrett began to win over the favor of influential Tiger receivers....both on and off the field:
Kayshon Boutte, who could very well be America's #1 WR this fall, publicly cast his vote for the second year QB during a podcast interview.
Meanwhile, Jack Bech is close 2021 freshman classmates with Nussmeier, not only rooming together in the LSU Riverside dorms, but living together now in 2022 alongside Maason Smith & Malik Nabers; plus, Bech and Nussmeier connected for multiple big plays, including 1 of Garrett's 2 TD passes in 2021.
And it was within the magic of that play vs Arkansas which captured Tiger imaginations: Could He Be The Guy? The heir to the vacant Burrow throne?
Nussmeier's scrambling, sack-dodging touchdown lob to Jack Bech (while rolling to his left) was a defiant, memorable play against a very tough SEC West defense.....as a freshman....playing within a flawed offensive system under Jake Peetz and the meddling of Coach O.
Regardless of Orgeron's mismanagement, the Lake Charles-born slinger impressed many vs Arkansas & his cameo against Ole Miss, throwing an incredible touchdown dart through impossible coverage for Malik Nabers.
Heading into 2022, carrying a quarterback as talented as Nussmeier on roster, supposedly behind Myles & Daniels in the pecking order, some questioned if LSU could retain such an elite player without starting his second season....
However, Nussmeier raised the stakes this Spring to make the case, pushing both Brennan and Daniels to the brink every rep, before his progress culminated in a strong Spring game performance in front of his hero, Joe Burrow:
On the day, Garrett appeared to be LSU's most dynamic quarterback with his play-extending abilities, howitzer right arm or football obsession, but the way he commanded Denbrock's offense and orchestrated fast paced marches down the field showcased his evolution & maturity, answering our challenge to rise up and take the job.
Simultaneously, Brennan or Daniels didn't fill me with full confidence, even though each made some stellar plays and exhibited their strengths, I'm feeling more assurance when picturing #5 running out of the Superdome tunnel to face Florida State.
When Coach Kelly decides the starter, whether going with experience in Brennan / Daniels or dynamic youthful fire in Nussmeier, we'll find out a lot about our new headman's philosophy for his debut campaign: for me, it's a choice between playing it safe or trying to win games....
We think Daniels could hurt Alabama with his legs, but would he be able to really punish Pete Golding's defense with his arm?
Myles may hold a lot of sympathy from LSU Nation, alongside a ton of sway within the Louisiana media world, but can he escape significant SEC pressure or are we possibly condemning the adult Brennan to yet another horrific, life-affecting injury?
Could he actually reach those expected heights in 2022, nearly 6 years after his LSU arrival??
Is Garrett Nussmeier capable of beating Alabama this season?
But I argue Nuss affords the Tigers with a rare combination of both extreme qualities, Brennan's arm & Daniels' legs, obviously not as fast as JD or as experienced as Myles....still, he could be LSU's best option this year.
I'm not sure if Jayden Daniels will build from his freshman year (17 TDs and 2 INTs) or stay stagnant with last season's 10 TDs and 10 INTs.
I'm not sure if Myles can finish a season.
I know Garrett has the confidence to do anything....and right now, blessed with his abilities, a smart coaching staff, as well as LSU's loaded receiving corps, he seems capable of it.
WE ARE.....THE INNOVATORS...
THEY ARE.....THE IMITATORS...
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2022 Uninterrupted Writings Inc