By CODY WORSHAM
Tiger Rag Editor
Will Danny Etling start at quarterback for LSU in Saturday’s SEC opener vs. Mississippi State?
Only Les Miles knows. For now.
LSU’s head coach declined to name a starter at quarterback during his weekly Monday luncheon with the press, saying he’d yet to meet with his team.
“We’ll need both guys to play in every game,” Miles said. “We’re not turning our back in any way on competition in that position. I will not name a starter until I talk to my team, so I won’t talk to my team until today after this meeting, and whether I name a starter. But I will communicate most effectively to them.”
All indications are that Etling will start over Brandon Harris. The Purdue transfer came off the bench in relief of a struggling Harris in LSU’s 34-13 win over Jacksonville State on Saturday. The Tigers were trailing 3-0 when he entered the game, but Etling engineered three straight scoring drives. He completed 6-of-8 passing for 100 yards in the second quarter, throwing for a score and later rushing for another. Harris was just 1-for-4 for 8 yards and led the offense to two straight three-and-outs.
“Danny has had really great weeks of preparation to be honest with you,” Miles said. “I think as he’s approached game week, I think he’s performed extremely well, so he was deserving of the opportunity. Again, we’ll need both guys, and we’ll expect that both guys will be ready to play.”
Though he remained cagey on the quarterback issue, Miles may have tipped his hand later when talking about Harris.
“We would like to think that a respite from the starting quarterback and the pressures thereof might allow him to take a deep breath and step forward and compete,” said Miles.
Regardless of who starts, Etling will likely feature heavily in LSU’s plans. He’ll have to improve on his 0-for-6, 1 interception, 1 fumble second half, but Miles said he has no doubts his junior quarterback will be ready.
“He’s the kind of guy that really prepares,” Miles said of Etling. “He was in the building on Sunday on his own watching film.”
The film will be kind to Etling, particularly the first half. After Harris left to boos, Etling took the field to cheers. His accuracy and poise lifted the stadium, something his teammates picked up on.
“Danny brought some energy, for sure,” said tight end Colin Jeter. “He just did a good job of doing his job, doing everything he could to move the offense down the field.”
Who starts, LSU’s players assure, is not of a major concern. Derrius Guice, who carried 19 times for 155 yards and a score starting in place of Leonard Fournette, said he didn’t even know Etling was entering the game Saturday until he approached to offer a high five.
“I was on the sideline, and he came over to the running backs, and was like, ‘Let’s go, I’m in,'” Guice recalled. “I was like, ‘Okay, let’s go!’ I didn’t know what was going on. He caught me off guard. I did not see that coming.”
This Saturday’s start, though Miles has yet to declare it, will be less of a surprise. Miles’ goal, he says, is to have both guys ready to produce.
“Basically exposing him to the things that we need to have him do and allow him to show us that he can continue to do what he’s done,” Miles said of his plans to prepare Etling. “And then in the same vein make sure that Brandon Harris gets that opportunity — because we’re going to need both guys, but make sure he gets that opportunity to compete and see how he’s coming, and let’s not turn a blind eye to a very talented quarterback on our team already.”