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by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Well, how 'bout that?
Geaux 247's Josh Pate became the first non-LSU media man to rep the Tigers' unprecedented 2021 quarterback class, calling it the program's best and making the case that any one of these four guys could start for most top programs.
Yes, Josh is correct, all four quarterbacks are just that good, but of course all local & national eyes are trained on Coach Ed Orgeron's ability to pick the right guy (as if he hasn't before)....and sure as hell hath no fury, the awaiting bloodhounds (who pine for Coach O's downfall) will be tripping over their own drool like broken jackals if Orgeron gets it wrong...
Still, I know Coach O will pick the right guy...it's not like he didn't before (Joe Burrow, hint hint, followed by a huge elbow)....
But if anyone understands the high stakes of picking the right quarterback on the cusp of a rebound season, it's Coach Ed Orgeron.
So much rides on LSU's quarterback battle throughout Spring and Summer, with both Offensive Coordinator Jake Peetz & Coach Ed Orgeron in complete understanding of the position's importance.
Quarterback isn't just "everything" for 2021: Getting the quarterback right for 2021 sooner rather than later is about solidifying an identity, especially concerning four very different profiles to choose from....a luxury few teams are ever successful enough to enjoy.
Thanks to LSU's four Grade A QBs all possessing their own specific attributes, Peetz can choose the future direction of our program's offensive blueprint for years to come....affecting both the football team & upcoming season itself, but also making the offense as attractive as possible to the eye of future recruits.
Peetz could go with the underrated & motivated sophomore TJ Finley (a massive, hulking athlete with a "pocket launcher" attached to his right shoulder), or take a gamble on transcendental freshman Garrett Nussmeier (Johnny Manziel on a date with Joe Burrow), upstart sophomore Max Johnson (the dual threat wizkid who won his first two starts, including @ #6 Florida before tossing 435 yards vs Ole Miss), or will 2020's gutsy record-setter Myles Brennan finally get his shot after so many false starts (Myles only narrowly missed Burrow's opening three game output from 2019)....
Is there even a wrong answer?
Forecasting years from now, thanks to these four quarterbacks' uncompromising abilities, OC Jake Peetz has the opportunity alongside the right tools to actually top his former Carolina boss Joe Brady's LSU tenure. Even beyond the four superstars in-waiting within the 2021 room, you've got 2022's 5 star freak QB Walker Howard coming in as well as 2023's Eli Holstein.
But would LSU's season really begin with all 4 of our different quarterbacks on roster?
That seems to be a stretch.
While there was a little fire to the TJ Finley transfer smoke just after the conclusion of last season, nobody's geauxing anywhere until the starting decision is made or looks lost.
All four are prepared to see this highly publicized QB battle through until the end, such is their intrigue over Offensive Coordinator Jake Peetz's incoming juggernaut offense.
Let's be real:
Myles is battling for his LSU career out there during Spring ball every day....if he doesn't win the spot, transfer rule changes permitting, he may decide to transfer to any other school where he can lead a team...which he's been patiently waiting to do in purple & gold for nearly 5 years.
If TJ Finley doesn't get the gig, I don't think a young stunner of his talents and physical stature would be advised to stick around LSU as a backup.
But sentimentality wasn't the reason Jake Peetz was brought in straight from the NFL:
Coach Orgeron hired Peetz to sculpt a championship offense and he will be granting no favors to seniority or the sons of close friends (Doug Nussmeier and Peetz are very close from their time at Alabama).
The war for 2021's starting job is already playing out before our eyes, and at this point, no one is resting on any laurels, feeling too safe or content; sure, all four may foster a friendly competitive vibe, however they're keenly aware of the high stakes.
Whoever wins this job will have a major chance at LSU history over the next few seasons. Whoever misses out may be watching glory from the sidelines....or worse yet, subsequently playing far far away from Baton Rouge or the Tigers.
Although our prior hypothetical is suggesting Peetz & Orgeron would be willing to ride or die with this summer's choice for a sustained, uninterrupted duration....win or lose. For example, if Myles Brennan is selected as the 2021 starter, does that mean he will be developed with one eye also on 2022 as a fixed starter?
If Max Johnson gets the job, will LSU follow him through every potential triumph or youthful pitfall for the next 2 or 3 seasons?
If TJ Finley grabs the starting spot, would he be pulled after 2 interceptions & a 10 point 3rd quarter deficit against UCLA? Will he be allowed to figure it out & develop out there?
Could Peetz's offense be a doctrine of riding with the hot hand?
Actually, the quarterback battle won't just be improving the ambitious team leaders themselves:
The multiplicity of the offensive structure and firepower will be at an optimum throughout 2021 because Peetz had to devise four different playbooks, each tailored to fit their separate strengths.
Think about it.
He'll not only have a great idea of the plays which work for whoever he picks as his starter, Peetz will be able to mix and match successful plays from all four books into the definitive Ultra-Mega-Source of Offensive Alchemy....the LSU Offensive Bible, forged in the fires of Ensminger and Brady's championship success, now resurrected under the endless potential of Jake Peetz & D.J Mangas.
As for this moment, there's a two-way race for the starting job, between Myles or Max:
Right now, the one true winner of the quarterback battle out there is Maximus Johnson, displaying 90% of the same throws Myles can make while being able to evade pressure from LSU's ravenous D-Line far easier than either Brennan or Finley.
Also, Max moves the chains quicker than the others thus far, punching in bulleted crossing routes straight into the belly of Kayshon Boutte or Koy Moore with precision and finding a variety of targets in space. He's also found a really good niche with his fellow running backs, too: making great plays on the run through dump-offs, screens or highly effective check downs. Meanwhile, Finley & Brennan continue to go for the home run shot, resulting in a few turnovers.
Regardless, the core of this Summer's QB competition isn't just about football abilities....LSU need a destroyer at quarterback.
Mad Max's mentality is nearly scary, complete calm crossed with some bloodborn intensity & ambition...nothing is getting in his way.....and I know that mentality is infectious amongst his teammates.
Once Johnson took over the offense last year, Kayshon Boutte exploded into full flight; against A&M, Finley couldn't hit Terrace Marshall on repeated passing plays....but once Maximus entered the game, he quickly created a supernatural chemistry alongside the Tigers' receiving Legend & upcoming 1st Round pick.
He believes he can do anything....exactly what every kid in America should be feeling.
There's nothing fake about that mentality from Maximus...it's not a put-on....it's not some young quarterback remembering "oh yeah, I gotta be intense...gotta be a leader right now..."
Max Johnson is perhaps the only quarterback on LSU's current roster who holds 100% confidence that he's the guy to beat Alabama....
You can feel it....you can sense it....it's almost primitive...the other QBs are trying very hard to match that vibe, but Maximus was born with this demeanor, it's not a skill he must practice.
Yes.....LSU's 2021 quarterback race will be going down to the wire, but if anyone other than Max Johnson is starting at quarterback when LSU faces UCLA within the sunset-kissed Rose Bowl, I'll be heavily surprised.
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
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