Coach O says Max Johnson may get first LSU QB start at Florida

LSU freshman QB Max Johnson is likely to get his first college start Saturday at Florida.

LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron hinted a change is coming at quarterback.

During his news conference after Thursday’s practice, Orgeron indicated that true freshman quarterback Max Johnson had taken repetitions with the Tigers first team offense this week and had positioned himself to start in Saturday’s Southeastern Conference game at No. 6 Florida at 6 p.m.

“We’re going to talk about it, but it looks like it’s going to be Max,” Orgeron said. “We haven’t made the final decision yet. Max has been practicing with the first team and TJ (TJ Finley) has gotten the second set of reps. We can go either way, but it looks like it’s going to be Max. But we haven’t made the final decision.”

Should Johnson get the starting nod over fellow true freshman Finley, who’s started the last five games for injured Myles Brennan, he would become LSU’s third different starting quarterback this season. That would equal a 12-year-old record for the program when Jarrett Lee, Andrew Hatch and Jordan Jefferson all started at different times in the 2008 season.

Johnson has completed 64 percent of his passes (40 of 63) for 395 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He drove the Tigers for a third-quarter field goal in last week’s 55-17 loss to top-ranked Alabama.

The thought of giving Johnson a start would be made easier when LSU encounters Florida in less-than-raucous Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – aka The Swamp – where normal capacity of 88,543 will be reduced to 17,000 physically distant fans to comply with state restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Obviously, playing in The Swamp’s going to be new for any freshman playing at night,” Orgeron said. “I think those guys are ready to handle not having a 100,000 people are whatever they have doing that Gator Chomp. I think it’s going to be an advantage for us but I’m sure they’re going to have a crowd and I’m sure they’re going to be loud.”

Here’s what else Orgeron had to say:

Opening remarks

“We had a great week of practice. I’m very proud of this team. The focus has been on Florida. Florida’s a great team and (head coach) Dan Mullen’s done a tremendous job. The quarterback (Kyle Trask) is an outstanding player. Great defense. We’re doing to play in The Swamp, our team’s going to be ready and we’ll give it our best effort.”

On dealing with a week filled with adversity

“I’m not going to have a bad day, I’m the head coach at LSU. Some weeks are tougher than others. I think the guys bounced back. It was a tough Monday. Florida’s another tough game and I think it helps you forget about last week and move forward which is a good thing.”

On what’s the mood of the team since Arik Gilbert opted out Tuesday

“I’ve seen them practice very hard. The guys have been in good spirits. We talked about Arik and wished him the best. Obviously, we’re going to recruit him to come back. Other than that, the team’s been fine.”

On getting freshman Kole Taylor ready to start at tight end

“He’s more suited to be outside. He’s a big, tall athletic tight end that needs to grow into his body, get a little more physical but he has since he’s been here. He’s only a freshman. We have Nick Storz who’s a big man. We’re going to play him. We expect him to play. I’m excited about it, he’s excited about it. I can’t wait to see those two guys play.”

On what wide receivers outside of Kayshon Boutte are ready to handle a bigger load this week

“Koy Moore, Jontre’ Kirklin. I’m waiting for Jontre’ to have a breakout (game). He’s a tremendous young man that’s been with us a long time. Jaray Jenkins. All those guys have looked good in practice and I think they’re going to do well. Trey Palmer has an injury and if he’s full speed we can get reps and play him in there.”

On some of the signs you’re looking from your team this week

“Having a great trip, staying focused just like they are. Having a great Friday, getting on the plane, having great meetings and come out very spirited and fighting for 60 minutes. Eliminate the mental errors. We’re going to have to win the turnover battle. We’re going to have to control the line of scrimmage. We have to win third down and eliminate the explosive plays on defense.”

On whether former players that either opted out or transferred such as Eric Monroe or Marcell Brooks could have helped

“Yeah, no question. Everybody that we lost probably would have played. The good thing is that a lot of young freshmen are playing. They’re getting seasoned, getting some repetitions that are going to pay off for us in the long run. “

On the availability of wide receiver Racey McMath this week

“No, he’s out for this weekend. He has an injury that hasn’t healed yet.”

On your satisfaction with the job of secondary coaches Bill Busch and Corey Raymond this season

“Those guys are busting their tails. I watch them work every day. Those guys have been very loyal to me; everybody has. We’re going to look at everything at the end of the season, which is coming up soon, evaluate everything and see where we’re going to go from there.”

On when did you know about the school’s self-imposed bowl ban

“It started sometime around Tuesday. The athletic director (Scott Woodward) came to me and asked what I thought. I thought it would be good if we could do it this year, that it would be an advantage for us not having to do it next year. But that decision was finalized on Wednesday.”

On whether Jabril Cox’s success against Texas A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer will help against Florida’s Kyle Pitts

“This is going to be more of a challenge because this is one of the best players. He proved it to us last year. We couldn’t stop him last year. I think Jabril could do a good job, but obviously that guy’s going to make some plays. He’s not going to be perfect. If we have anyone that can cover him one on one, it’s Jabril.”

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