By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
The LSU quarterback battle has reached its expected conclusion.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron named Danny Etling as LSU’s starting quarterback on Tuesday evening, officially cementing that the senior will lead the Tigers in the season opener against BYU on Sept. 2 in Houston.
True freshman Myles Brennan finished “a very close second,” Orgeron announced, and will begin his first collegiate season as LSU’s backup.
Lowell Narcisse, another true freshman who has been used as a running option in camp, could also see the field, he said.
“We’re looking forward to Danny being our starting quarterback,” the coach said. “Hopefully we can get Myles and Lowell in a game this year so we see what they can do.”
Despite that last bit, at this point it doesn’t sound like Etling is on a short leash to begin the season.
“Danny is our starter,” Orgeron said. “If Danny goes in the game and flops, I don’t have no problem putting in Myles, but we don’t expect that. We expect Danny to do well.”
The decision was finalized at a staff meeting Sunday. Orgeron then broke the news to Brennan and Etling individually before letting the rest of the team know.
While Orgeron has opted to let several other position battles continue to run their course as LSU approaches game week, he felt it best to make a call at quarterback two weeks prior to the opener for the overall sake of the team.
“I wanted to make sure that Danny knew I believed in him,” Orgeron said. “I think it’s important that the quarterback knows the head coach and coordinator believe in him and the team believes in him.”
Etling, the incumbent, took over under center during the second game of last season and has maintained the job since. He threw for 2,123 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 59.5 percent of his passes.
Though far from perfect — the offense as a whole struggled in losses to Alabama and Florida — Etling and former interim offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger did engineer several record-setting offensive outputs down the stretch.
Orgeron declared LSU would hold an open competition beginning in the spring when Matt Canada was hired as the offensive coordinator. Etling was challenged to hold the job against Justin McMillan, Brennan and Narcisse.
None of the quarterbacks are completely out of the hunt for reps, Orgeron maintained, he made repeated mention of a desire to get the freshmen playing time if the opportunity arises in the form of an injury or blowout.
“We want to get them some experience,” Orgeron said. “The competition was close, very close. We also want to see what those guys could do.”
Brennan’s arm talent has been one of the talks of training camp as coaches have articulated rave reviews. Two weeks ago Orgeron proclaimed him good enough to start in the Southeastern Conference as a rookie.
Now a true freshman who only joined the program in the summer has risen through the depth chart to No. 2.
Does that come as a surprise to his coach?
“We knew he was going to be a good player,” Orgeron said. “There were some things that he did beyond my expectations, but he’s still a freshman.”
The competition never seemed to mount a serious challenge to Etling’s job status.
Etling remained the presumed starter throughout the spring despite a back injury that required offseason surgery and has taken the lion’s share of first-team reps in all three preseason games.
Accord to Orgeron, Etling went 26-for-44 for 368 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions across three official scrimmages. Scrimmage stats should always be taken with many grains of salt.
Wait a couple more weeks and there will be actual results to chew on.