MYLES BRENNAN: A STOP/START SHAKESPEAREAN TALE



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by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips


He waited three years longer than any highly touted high school prospect should...but no matter what anyone told him, he was staying...

...First, the young blonde-haired freshman's sandy dispositon watched Danny Etling take the spot to "show him the ropes". This resulted in the one time Destin, Florida-resident sitting back while Etling serially underthrew D.J Chark throughout 2017, preventing some crucial early development;

Etling was so pitiful against unranked Troy, the unknown freshman came in and threw a touchdown pass, leading a comeback. But the stop-start nature of the young man's time at LSU reared its ugly head on the freshman's next possession, throwing a pick six while sustaining a violent concussion.

Etling was back in the game, LSU succumbed to one of their worst defeats ever, and the young quarterback wouldn't see the field for 2 more years.

This quarterback's name was Myles Brennan, introduced as the best quarterback prospect LSU had ever signed...and for years on end during his never-ending stop / start trajectory, we all wondered just how good he could be.


We flash forward to Spring 2018: after believing he had the inside track on the starting job for 2018, the Mississippi High School legend was forced back to the bench once again, witnessing the guy from out of town (who took his job, out-worked and out-threw him in practice) hoist the Heisman Trophy, throw 60 TD passes in a single season, rushing for 5 more scores and leading LSU to their first modern era undefeated campaign and first National Championship since 2007....hell, Joe Burrow was so good, his greatness allowed Brennan more game time than Myles had seen in his entire LSU career up to that point, albeit in garbage time; Joe even made a few tackles, recovered a few fumbles and completed a pass to himself in 2019...

Who was this blonde kid attached to Burrow, Ensminger, Munoz and Brady's hip?

Standing there in the shadow of Joe Burrow's colossus was a gameface gawking "surfer kid" (who'd sock ya if you called him that) chomping at the bit for action, only to realize he was, once again, a long way from the starting job at LSU.

Then came the post title afterglow....Joe Burrow was the #1 overall pick, the Tigers would be in the preseason top 10 rankings returning with Ja'Marr Chase, Tyler Shelvin, Derek Stingley Jr and Terrace Marshall....but who would even dare take Joe Burrow's shoes?

Nobody could even attempt to replace Joe Burrow, right?


The script was written: in spite of everything Offensive Coordinator Steve Ensminger may try, no matter how talented Brennan could ever be, LSU were just going to fold their tents and move on back to the dilapidated warehouse offenses of the mid 90s and 2010s....that was how integral the two Joes were for 2019 LSU....or so we were told.

The world gradually began paying attention to LSU's new starting quarterback, as if his existence was a homework assignment...the writing was already on the wall: There Would Be No Repeat For 2020 LSU, Brennan Should Be Doubted and Orgeron Must Be Questioned...

LSU's Steve Ensminger hyped up Myles' arm and Coach O felt they could hit the same offensive peaks as 2019 under Myles ...and I completely believed them....and to their credit, they were proven correct.

There were nonstop questions about Brennan's weight, so he gained as much as 223 pounds during the bulk-up.

Continuous statements about how different this LSU team would be continued to swirl as Brennan kept working harder and harder, tweeting "It's time" on his Twitter account and leaving the simple, yet devastating line to speak for itself.

We even titled our 2020 Brennan profile after the tweet, such was its immediacy in firing up the Tigers' fan base in Brennan's favor.

Finally, LSU fans were on board with #15 and began expecting another season of CFP contention....as did many of the best analysts in the country, only throwing LSU 1 or 2 losses at most in their pre-season predictions.

As momentum continued to build for the 2020 LSU offense, suddenly the most dynamic player in the country opted out (Ja'Marr Chase) taking with him a myriad of unforgettable moments that'll never be seen...a second Biletnikoff Award just hanging on the shelf for Chase...


Brennan's arm + Marshall on one side, Chase on the other and Arik Gilbert at TE would've been the most productive aerial setup in college football history....unborn memories which will stay locked forever in the cold stone cinemas of the mind.

Before the Mississippi State game, every LSU fan believed Mike Leach's team would be a great stepping stone, perhaps a sloppy 38-21 victory where the team "gets right"....instead, the entire collective were smacked upside the head by Miss State's easy peezy pitch and catch "Air Raid" attack as K.J Costello racked up 623 passing yards and 5 TDs' vs LSU's secondary and linebackers.

Somehow, while the defense pissed the bed and Brennan actually played his worst game of the campaign, the first-time starter kept pace until another cruel twist of fate affected the outcome.

Myles was being whistled by a few douchey fans and the rest was complete and utter baited breath silence, the lack of home crowd confidence contributing to Brennan's poor start: Myles missed throws, passed teammates into wicked hits, held on to the ball for an eternity and played a poor first half of football.

Bailed out by a crazy touchdown pass as he was falling to the ground (Brennan blindly tossed the ball up for Gilbert to grab) and hampered by a running game averaging 2.1 yards per carry, Myles somehow delivered a stunning second half showing, finishing at 345 yards and 3 Touchdowns (completing multiple passes to 5 different receivers, Terrace Marshall's 8 catches 122 yards and 2 TDs the leader on the day)....but the heroism shown by Myles mattered little once he failed to connect with Racey McMath on a wide open touchdown pass...Myles' elbow was swatted back by a lineman and the ball sailed 30 yards short of the intended target and directly into the hands of the DB who'd been left in the dust by McMath in the first place.

It was beyond cruel and the interception equalized LSU's own points off Eli RIcks' diving birthday debut interception....Had Mississippi State's D-lineman been unable to smash Brennan's right elbow right as he delivered the ball, Myles geauxs to 4 touchdowns, well over 400 yards and LSU re-takes the lead and the crowd's 100% backing.

Once Mississippi State had ended the game with a 10 point win, the finger pointing went directly upon Myles Brennan for holding on to the ball far too long.

He did....he shouldn't have held on to the ball so long, however Myles was drilled 7 times on many 3rd down opportunities, most hits coming before Pat Mahomes or Tom Brady would've been able to blink, let alone a first time starter.

LSU's offensive line were being sacrificed by Mississippi State on the day and Myles Brennan suffered an entire week cast as the scapegoat for the collective unit's embarrassing defeat.


Unbroken from these waves of criticism, Myles went back to the drawing board and improved, tossing 1,000 passes in the backyard on the night of the Mississippi State loss, repeating the practice every night and throwing with his receivers at every opportunity;

He spent lonely nights pacing around his empty, quarantined Baton Rouge condo, when he wasn't endlessly watching film....all while LSU Legends Booger McFarland and Rohan Davey among others criticized him and called for his benching.

It was at this point when Myles studied in solitude, reached inside of himself and pulled out everything he was made of for the next two games...scheduled dates we thought of as "warm-up games for Florida and Alabama"....little did we know these opponents would prove to be Myles Brennan's last two games of 2020.

Due to playing on the road in Nashville, #15 was incendiary vs Vanderbilt, torching the Commodores with precision, weaponised calculation and an improved shuttershock release without any distraction...he was still raw, but the quantum leap Myles made from first to second start was masterful.

Finishing with 337 yards, 4 touchdowns, 9.1 yards per completion and 1 dumb INT, Brennan was far more efficient, spraying multiple completions to 7 different receivers during week 2.


Brennan had already started to make Terrace Marshall Jr fall in love with his prowess, the pair proving to be just as dominant as Burrow & Chase or Burrow & Jefferson.

Marshall Jr already had 4 TDs after Vanderbilt, remained in the Biletnikoff Award's top two vote earners and was on pace to surpass Ja'Marr Chase's 23 career TDs as well as Dwayne Bowe's all time LSU-leading 26.

At that time, even the cynical LSU media were fully behind Brennan's obvious improvement....he was proving the doubters wrong by the pass.

Against Missouri, Myles stepped out on to the field like a new man, completing his first 7 passes and 8 of 9 for two touchdowns, hitting Arik Gilbert down the seams and exploiting the mismatches beautifully...


He made a pair of Burrow-esque passes to Marshall and Gilbert down the sidelines, evading pressure and stepping into the pocket like it was his own personal playground. His partnership with Terrace Marshall Jr exploded, Terrace catching 11 passes for 235 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Myles was already sacked during this sequence, but the biggest hits came on LSU's second scoring drive:

First, Myles was smashed into the sidelines on a half scramble half lurch ahead, turning his left hip towards the impact as he felt the full contact internally, setting his muscles up for what happened next.


Dealing with hideous agony on the next play, Brennan nevertheless rolled to his right and tossed a 2 yard touchdown through double coverage and mounting pressure from his left again. As he released the pass, Myles was hurled away and driven into the ground by a Missouri pass rusher, the contact hitting his left abdominal area yet again.

Something ripped....

Somehow, Myles rose to his feet and limped the injury off...but he quickly met with Head Athletic Trainer Jack Marucci inside the medical tent.

"His muscles split like a steamed asparagus," Marucci said at the time, detailing the outrageous nature of the injury. Regardless of the harrowing pain, Brennan understood the stakes...he was never coming out of that game.

After the injury, Myles pulled off an unspeakable 432 yards, 2 more touchdowns (4 total), 0 INTs and led LSU to their second consecutive 41 point game...all while no one, save for Jack Marucci or Myles, knew of the pain our quarterback was pushing through.

It was one of the most heroic and daring performances in Tigers' history, cementing Myles Brennan as an LSU Legend...the gamer who wouldn't quit...

Only improving with each sack suffered or injury felt, Myles' trajectory was still flying high and he knew it too...and so did every fan, analyst, parent, writer or hater who doubted him...Myles was laughing in the face of impossible....but the laughs came through the veil of a painful grimace.

Even as he left the field, shoulders slumped in defeat after having racked up a record setting day, we couldn't anticipate what was coming next.

After 109 points in 3 games, ranking #1 in the SEC for passing against the blitz by Pro Football Focus, tossing a total of 1,112 yards, 11 TDs (becoming the only LSU player to amass those numbers through his first three starts) with only a 1-2 record to show for his record-breaking accomplishment, he walked off the field in Missouri beaten...yet he wasn't broken.

Sadly, we all didn't realize it then, but that moment would be the final time we'd see Brennan on the field in purple and gold this year...

His loss wasn't immediately punished when freshman T.J Finley roasted South Carolina for 52 points, although when facing Auburn's tougher competition, Finley's inexperience was exposed and now.... we're all sitting here wondering what the season could've been like had Myles never been hurt vs Missouri...


With a defense like this, would his inclusion matter?

Interestingly enough, despite ending his 2020 season 9/40 on 3rd down through three games and throwing 1 ill-advised interception (and 2 more you cannot put on Brennan) his three game burst matches Joe Burrow's 2019 exploits through three weeks in touchdowns, only under Burrow by 9 passing yards and 5 third down completions, all while playing better competition than Joe faced through three games....

These were three SEC opponents...

Aside from taking yet another starting season away, the abdominal tear also stole Brennan's chance at facing top SEC competition.

2020...one more year where Myles must watch from the sidelines...this time none of us under any illusions as to how good he could be.

What Myles has experienced thus far at LSU is as Shakespearean a tragedy as you can find in college football...despite the setbacks, he's nowhere near close to giving into that final defining storyline:

Brennan plans on taking the extra do-over year of eligibility, handing himself a second chance at his two year shot.

But with electric 2021 freshman Garrett Nussmeier coming in next year as an early enrollee, Walker Howard arriving in 2022 and T.J Finley / Max Johnson seemingly going nowhere, Brennan will face his biggest obstacle to the field since Joe Burrow signed.

No matter what happens amidst such uncertainty, the only thing we can guarantee?

Myles won't be quitting...


BLACK LIVES MATTER

By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips

Copyright 2020 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC


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© 2020 by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN, Uninterrupted Writings Inc.