Updated: Feb 17
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by Lonn Phillips Sullivan
When talking about Myles Brennan, T.J Finley, Max Johnson & Garrett Nussmeier, it must be said: Without question, the Tigers' 2021 QB group is the most talented unit in LSU's history and could also be the greatest ever batch in the program when all is said & done.
Right now, LSU's 2021 crop are still chasing 2004's Matt Mauck, Matt Flynn and JaMarcus Russell (4 combined National Championships, a Sugar Bowl & #1 overall pick) or 2006/07's Russell, Flynn & Ryan Perriloux (#1 overall pick / Sugar Bowl / 5 combined National titles, & an SEC Championship victory) still I can't help but get the feeling Coach Orgeron's 4 QB Horsemen of the SEC Apocalypse is a group brimming with something intangibly special...an "it factor" that was so often missing from previous quarterback rooms at LSU HQ.
In fact, the pedal has been rammed down so hard toward the opposite direction, the competitive fires are as healthy as ever inside LSU, with a relaxed intensity growing among the confident & focused coaching staff on down to their hungry Tigers.
There may be a litany of spots with starting jobs up for grabs heading into the 2021 campaign, however one personnel choice reigns above all else regarding obvious importance:
The quarterback....and Orgeron's staff continues their daily hunt for the right Tiger, knowing full well the process may take until Spring to be firmly decided, if not longer.
In the aftermath of LSU's volcanic 2020 season, there's been one search after another:
First, Orgeron, Woodward, Ponamsky & the rest of the crew had to find a new OC & a passing game coordinator...Coach O getting both simultaneously; then came the never-ending hunt for a defensive coordinator followed by the relatively pain-free searches for a LBs Coach, a GM, as well as a D-line coach....
Every off-season decision made by Orgeron & Woodward, from Daronte Jones to Jake Peetz, were smart moves, each hire being the right man for the job at this present time. Now, Orgeron's Tigers are looking for their next starting quarterback....one big question holds sway:
Who Will Be The Right Tiger for the job?
Among these four quarterbacks, there doesn't seem to be any budging on LSU's starting job from a single candidate, despite strong talk of a T.J Finley transfer immediately following last season.
There was fire to that Finley smoke, ala Eli Ricks, although it was a batch of flames Offensive Coordinator Jake Peetz has extinguished for now, letting T.J know he'll get every opportunity to win back the job (after being Coach O's first choice last year).
LSU's 2021 QB collection features a trio of quarterbacks claiming at least 1 SEC victory as a starter, two holding multiple victories over SEC opponents & a litany of LSU records shattered by Myles Brennan & Max Johnson in such a little chunk of playing time...then, Garrett Nussmeier rounds out the Tiger QBs with a thoroughly decorated high school career and an undefeated senior year (he was knocked out of the playoffs during the final game of the year with Marcus holding a 9-0 record; that following week without Nussmeier, the Marauders fell in the 1st Round).
So you have three proven winners wearing purple & gold uniforms, two record breaking slingers & a hotshot freshman with a biblical array of talents....so, how the hell does Jake Peetz choose LSU's 2021 starting quarterback?
How can anyone keep Max Johnson off the field???
Mad Max...the young man who, on his starting debut, carved #6 Florida's heart out and fed it to them...
How can any coach decide against starting Myles Brennan after the form he demonstrated last year? Remember, Myles has recovered fully from his injury, he looks beastly now (much hulkier than ever before) & he still has 2 years of eligibility.
Could Peetz toss aside T.J Finley's 52 point game vs South Carolina, his gutty final winning drive vs Arkansas or his obvious athletic arsenal?
The upside on all four quarterbacks is enormous...
LSU find themselves in a truly special scenario here, one they cannot afford to swing & miss on.
Coach Ed Orgeron & Jake Peetz's 2021 QB decision will have such wide-ranging ramifications...from transfers (one of these quarterbacks will leave before season's start) to maximizing skill position potential, but in totality, Orgeron & Peetz's choice will effect whether the Tigers compete for National Championships or stare down Saban's ugly mug for the next 4-5 seasons...
With that in mind, from Head Coach Ed Orgeron to OC Jake Peetz...from D.J Mangas to Mickey Joseph & Russ Callaway, Ensminger to Carter Sheridan, every offensive mind is taking the quarterback candidacy as seriously as any task they've ever taken on.
I was told this by a source within LSU HQ who had some first hand knowledge of the Tigers' QB meetings:
"Getting this right isn't just about this season, it's about making sure we don't miss out on the best "big picture", long term guy because of what we thought he could do for LSU in 2021."
Because of this, Peetz wants to see how all four react to the action, how each quarterback responds when "under the gun of the grind"...the searing burn of the microscope's glare shining down from high above...."how well do they know protections? Are they comfortable sending guys in motion on a 4th and 5 red zone play for the win? What's their recall ability? Is their cadence out of whack? Are those feet angled the wrong way at the point of release? Do they have pocket presence? Most of all, can they extend the play?" All of these qualities remain at the top of LSU's QB search checklist.
Despite a lack of football activity during "football school", these quarterbacks will be put through a rigorous course of mental origami by OC Jake Peetz ("the loudest man out there" according to Jacob Hester), his cohort (& "Brady Bro") Passing Game Coordinator D.J Mangas, QBs Coach / Offensive Analyst Russ Callaway and former title-winning OC / Analyst Steve Ensminger.
All four quarterbacks are taking each and every rep separately, as the staff's eyes are fixed on the four different passers....cameras rolling in case they miss anything.
The true war for LSU's starting quarterback job will take place over the Spring & Summer, although do not overlook the competitive roster skirmishes during this period....I know Peetz and his offensive staff won't be.
After news of his recovery broke, the news keeps getting better for Brennan.
He appears robust, brickhouse thick and ready for the upcoming season. Brennan obviously beefed up in an attempt to withstand injury, as he experienced last year.
While the attention moved away from the original 2020 starter after his injury, Myles continued to train, rehab and work his way back from the injury...now adding extra layers of muscular protection.
Myles won't have the job handed to him like last year...this will be an intense battle, but one Brennan looks to have the inside track on.
Myles' closest competitor and the true choice until Myles' is 100% fit.
Johnson's brilliance with the RPO action as well as his PS5 mobility will make him a huge favorite of Jake Peetz.
In fact, he already is.
"Jake is excited by the possibilities with Max. There'd be more design runs than would be possible with Myles..." An LSUHQ source revealed.
When you add up Max's growing confidence as a passer, his proven greatness on 3rd or 4th down, coupled alongside his "giant slayer" mentality, LSU very well have a championship starter on their hands.
If only he didn't have those crucial turnovers against Alabama, A&M or Auburn, who knows where Finley's status as an LSU starter would be right now.
Though once those turnovers occurred, Finley often shrank in the moment, letting the bright lights devour him and sully the progress he'd made against South Carolina or Arkansas.
Although Finley isn't anywhere close to done at LSU...the Ponchatoula Powerhouse could start the season at quarterback and this author wouldn't be shocked.
Such is his range of athletic talents, local ties & grade A character, Finley cannot be taken lightly...but I do feel he's the odd man out.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
SHOUTOUTS: the inventor of Haribo gummies. You amazing amazing man. And reese's mixed with pretzels. Try it.