Brennan still doubtful, freshmen QBs preparing to start and play vs. South Carolina

LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron confirmed during Monday’s weekly news conference that junior quarterback Myles Brennan would not have been available to play last Saturday had the Tigers faced Florida as scheduled in Gainesville.

With a postponement until Dec. 12 because of a coronavirus outbreak within Florida’s program, LSU went about the process of trying to cure some of its ills from a 1-2 start to the season, believing Brennan would return to practice this week.

The status of Brennan, who ranks fourth in the Southeastern Conference with 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns, hit closer to home when Orgeron said his starting quarterback was doubtful for Saturday’s 6 p.m. home game with South Carolina because of a ‘significant lower body injury’ suffered during a 45-41 loss Oct. 10 at Missouri.

“He was not going to play last week,” Orgeron said of Brennan. “We expected him back earlier in the week. I just talked to (LSU trainer) Jack (Marucci). He’s questionable. It’s taken a little more time for him to heal and he’s going to be questionable for the game.

“Myles has a significant injury to his lower body. (It’s) Something we do believe will heal. It’s going to take more time to heal. We thought he would be back today but he’s not. I don’t know if he’s going to play this game.”

With Brennan unlikely to be, Orgeron said he will choose his starter from a pair of true freshmen, Max Johnson (6-foot-5, 219) of Watkinsville, Ga. or T.J. Finley of Ponchatoula (6-6, 242). They will battle for the No. 1 spot during practice this week.

Orgeron said junior A.J. Aycock (6-4, 217) of Jonesboro, Ark. would be the team’s third-team or emergency quarterback this week in the event something happened to either Johnson or Finley.

“They both had fantastic weeks, both of them are very impressive,” Orgeron said of the practices last week turned in by Johnson and Finley. “I believe they both have NFL talent at quarterback. Now they haven’t been under live action. They’re both freshmen but we’re going to practice them both this week. We’re going to tell them whoever has the best week will start. I plan on giving both of them a chance during the game. I want to see what they can do and the only way to do that is under live action.”

Here’s what else Orgeron had to say:

Opening remarks

“Last week we spent most of the week fixing LSU. Some of the things we worked on was simplifying our defense, our communication, our tackling, our fundamentals. On offense, we started with the goal line and especially at the 1-yard line, making better choices at the 1-yard line and I believed we fixed it. Identifying the problems on third down, fixing them with (a) better scheme, better execution. On special teams, kickoff coverage. That was a big emphasis for us last week. We started game-planning for Florida and as you know Wednesday, we found out we weren’t playing Florida, so we had to turn around and game plan some for South Carolina. Our guys had Friday and Saturday off. I talked to coach (Tommy) Moffitt, they were rested and ready to go in the weight room.

“Now it’s on to South Carolina and we look forward to being back in LSU Tiger Stadium, Death Valley on Saturday night, and hopefully 25,000 people are going to be there loud and proud. I can’t wait to get off the bus for the Tiger Walk and hear our own stadium and get that energy going. (Head coach) Will Muschamp has done an outstanding job with South Carolina’s team. They have a two-game winning streak and played great against Auburn. (Offensive Coordinator) Mike Bobo has done a tremendous job with the offense. He brought his quarterback (Collin Hill) with him. They’re a pro-style offense with different formations. We’ll see some I-back which we haven’t seen much. He runs out of a pro set and also a spread set. Collin Hill does a great job of operating his offense. Kevin Harris is an outstanding back and (wide receiver) Shai Smith is one of the best receivers in the conference, very fast, very elusive.

On defense, he’s (Muschamp) a 4-3 guy. Will has always done a great job with his defenses. His defenses are active up front with a lot of stunts, play zone coverage, man coverage and zone blitz. It will be a tremendous challenge for us. We look forward to seeing our guys again and getting back to playing an LSU style of football.”

On South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn

“First of all, he’s got good genes. He’s Joe Horn’s son. Very good, especially in press coverage. Gets his hands up on you. It will be tight. Has a nose for the football. We evaluated him. He’s a great corner and I know Joe’s proud of him. He’s a great press guy. He’s very handsy in a competitive way. Good way to say it (smiling). Obviously, he has great genes. One of the top corners. He’s playing very well. He’s an open-field tackler. Plays the ball very well. Outstanding player.”

On his personal concerns of contracting COVID-19

“We have to be aware and follow the protocols. Hopefully I’m able to stay free of it during the season. It would be tough to be away from our football team. I can understand (Alabama) coach (Nick) Saban not wanting to be away from his team. This is the time of year we need to be with our football team.”

On having to match the toughness of South Carolina’s team

“South Carolina’s a tough team. They have grit. We’re going to have some tough practices. We’re going to have to find out about ourselves. I like to pride ourselves on being tough, but we’re going to find out Saturday who can be the toughest team.”

On the determining factors which quarterback he will start

“We’ll see what South Carolina gives us on defense and who best suits to play (against) it. But they’re going to have to have a good week. We’re not just going to give it to anybody. They’re going to have to perform. Last week both of them were ready to start at the Swamp. They were getting prepared for that and they didn’t know who was going to start. It will be the same thing this week. We’re playing at home. It should be easier for them. Being the first game for either one of them will make for nervousness. I think both of them can handle it.”

On health of wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., and tight end Arik Gilbert

“I think both of them will be available. Both of them will practice today. They should be fine.”

On the results of self-scouting your own team

“Shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s all about us making mistakes. Communication. Not having the right gaps fits, not aligning to formations. Not making the proper calls. Guys running wide open down the field. It all comes down to communication. It all comes down to simplification. What our guys can handle. This week we did a lot of soul searching on what we’re telling the guys and how we’re telling them. It’s not how much we know. It’s how much they know. They’ve got to be doing that on the field. Most of all it was about us just shooting ourselves in the foot.”

On the loss of weight benefitting Finley

“I think it’s helped him. We had a two-minute on (last) Thursday, and he scrambled out of there. Max is very fast. His speed’s comparable to Joe Burrow or a little bit faster. Max is a little bit faster than T.J. and is more of a dual threat quarterback. If so, T.J. can move out of the back and avoid the rush.”

On whether one of the freshman quarterbacks could ride a hot start to a permanent starting position

“Myles has shown he can be our quarterback. He’s had three phenomenal games. We like Myles. These two young quarterbacks are great players. I’m anxious to see what they can do. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Right now, Myles is our starting quarterback.”

On the importance of the running game to help starting a freshman quarterback

“It’s really important this game or any game to get the running game going. It’s going to set up the pass. We can’t be one dimensional. We have to be able to block better up front. We have to be able to run the ball better to not be behind on second and 10 or third and 10. We’ve got to get into manageable (third) downs.”

On your conversation with the two freshman quarterbacks and when do you tell them who will start

“To be fair to them after Thursday’s practice we should tell them, or Friday morning tell them that I believe in them. Just do the things they can do. That’s why they were recruited here. Both of those guys, it helped they were here last spring. Although we didn’t have spring football, they matured a lot, they were in the meetings and know our offense. (Offensive coordinator) Steve (Ensminger) is going to have to see what they can do. He knows what they both can do and call the game and they can manage the game.”

On the progress of South Carolina’s offensive line

“We were talking about them this morning. Obviously, I coach the defensive line. We had an offensive line scouting report, extensive scouting report, on each one of the young men. They’re very good on their double-team blocks. Very well-coached. Their center can handle a nose tackle one-on-one, reach them. I think they’re better run blockers right now than they are in pass protection. They’ve struggled in pass protection. That’s why they made a change. I think they’re getting better at it. But their quick game enables them to hide maybe a guy that’s not as strong in pass protection, better run game protector. The quarterback, No. 13, is phenomenal. Play-action game. Their sprints and their boots. They have ways to cover for that.”

On South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp

Great guy. Love him. Love talking to him. Always been a friend. Always been a good guy. Great defensive coach. I’m happy to see him having success. He’s not a big ego guy. Gets along with everybody. Got to credit him, he’s got his football team playing very well. He made a change on offense. You can see the difference. His defense is playing with fire, playing with toughness. The tight end blocks, he reminds me of Foster Moreau because they have some toughness in them. They’re playing his temperament. That’s who he is.”

On South Carolina running back Kevin Harris

“He’s hard to tackle. He’s hard to get down with one guy. He sees the hole. Outstanding. He can block. He has vision. He breaks tackles. He can catch the ball in the backfield. He’s an all-around back.”

On your message to the team this week

“I think we need to play with a lot of energy. I think we should be rested. I told the guys last week, Press the restart button, let’s go. Started today with a positive mindset with our coaching staff, a positive mindset to win the football game. Let’s coach every day. Let’s do our best job coaching. I’m going to ask our players, Listen, I asked the coach to give us their very best. Let’s give our very best in practice. When you go back, don’t play well, you got to look at your practices. We’ve been up and down in practice. Last week we put three practices together. Great practice. This week we got to put four leading to up game. I think it’s not more or less being fired up on Saturday, but about being fired up today, getting better today. We got a lot of improving to do on LSU, not on South Carolina, on LSU.”

On the matchup of Terrace Marshall vs. Jaycee Horn

“Marshall has an advantage over most guys because of his athletic ability. I’m sure we’re going to find ways that Terrace is going to move around. It won’t only be against Horn. Some situations where he’s in the slot, some situations where he’s on the other side of the field.”

On whether the postponement of the Florida game may have had a silver lining

“Obviously if we were going to play Florida, it was going to be good. But come to find out talking to Jack (Marucci), our players were tired, our players were beat up. They needed the time off. Talking to Tommy (Moffitt), (it) seemed like our guys came back reenergized. We had a few guys banged up that needed the weekend to get a little bit better. I thought having the weekend would help Myles, but obviously it hasn’t. We’re going to have to deal with that, task at hand. But it turned out to be a good thing for us. Our guys could get some rest. We need to build off of this. We had two extra days on South Carolina, so we should be ahead this week.”

On how you shifted gears last week when the Florida game was canceled

“We shifted gears last Wednesday, last Tuesday night. I heard the game may be canceled. I told the coaches to get ready to work on South Carolina Wednesday. I think we found out for sure on Wednesday morning, so that’s when we shifted gears. The whole week was about fixing LSU. We had a lot of things to fix. Wasn’t so much game planning against Florida because if the things that we put on film weren’t fixed, we’re going to see them again. We had to make sure those were fixed.”

On your team’s leadership and chemistry after a 1-2 start

“First of all, our guys have had a great attitude. The only thing I ask them to do, I told them, we’ve got to coach them better, you guys stay together. It’s been pretty good. Having a 1-2 start, coming off a championship team, it looks like the guys will have a great mindset. They’re eager to win. Take it one game at a time.”

On any memories of the 2015 game with South Carolina

Yeah, it was a home game for them. I think they were playing their fight song. We didn’t get to play our stuff. It was kind of different. We were the away team, that’s all I remember. A little different in Tiger Stadium.”

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