It was a tell-all visit by a free-agent quarterback.
When Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow stepped on campus at LSU in mid-May, Tigers’ head coach Ed Orgeron was telling all about his personal evaluation of the quarterbacks currently on campus.
Myles Brennan, who was being groomed to take over the spot, had an up-and-down spring and didn’t separate himself from the others. Lowell Narcisse, the best runner, still has to improve his passing. And, Justin McMillan, a fourth-year junior, may be the best option now but isn’t the long-term answer.
Can it be that difficult to find quality quarterback play at a school that has won two BCS championships since 2003 and reached another championship game?
LSU’s slide from the top of the SEC West can be directly traced to its inability to find that special quarterback, while others in the division and in the league seem to have no trouble.
The father of Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts touched off a pigskin dust storm when he told Bleacher Report that his son “would be the biggest free agent in the history of college football.”
Hurts was benched in the national championship game against Georgia. True freshman Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench to throw the winning touchdown pass in overtime.
Auburn has won two SEC titles and an SEC West championship since 2010. All three starting quarterbacks on those teams were transfers. Cam Newton (2010) led Auburn to a national championship. Nick Marshall (2013) led Auburn to a national runner-up finish.
And, in 2017, Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham was 21-of-28 for 237 yards passing and added 51 yards rushing and a touchdown in a 26-14 win over Alabama. That victory won the SEC West for the Tigers.
Mississippi State has won two of the last four meetings with LSU. In those wins, in 2014 with Dak Prescott, and in 2017 with Nick Fitzgerald, the Dogs were better at quarterback.
When Georgia lost quarterback Jacob Eason with a knee injury early in the 2017 season, the Dogs plugged in Jake Fromm, who took the job and kept it.
2018 was supposed to be the year that LSU had two very good young quarterbacks – Brennan and Narcisse – battle for the job, with the lefty McMillan as insurance.
Either Brennan and/or Narcisse may still be the answer. But, in the spring game, McMillan appeared to be best, and that may have left a queasy feeling in the stomachs of Orgeron and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger.
Thus, the visit from Joe Burrow.
So, for now the purple-and-gold quandary at quarterback continues. And, if Orgeron and Ensminger can’t solve it, LSU can’t return to the top of the SEC.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarion herald.org.