The door for LSU quarterback Myles Brennan’s return to the field of play in Saturday’s Southeastern Conference clash at Western Division rival Auburn has closed ever so slightly and may shut by week’s end.
LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron said during Wednesday’s Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference that Brennan, who had passed for the most yards (1,112) through three games in school history, hadn’t practiced this week and doesn’t feel he’ll be ready to play against Auburn.
If that scenario plays out, true freshman TJ Finley of Ponchatoula will get his second straight start in Brennan’s absence, while fellow true freshman Max Johnson will serve as Finley’s backup.
Brennan suffered a torn abdomen late in the first quarter of LSU’s 45-41 loss to Missouri on Oct. 10.
“I don’t believe that he’s going to play, but things could change toward the end of the week,” Orgeron said. “Right now, we’re going with TJ as our first team quarterback and Max will be our second.”
The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Finley provided LSU’s coaching staff with a level of comfort after his performance in last Saturday’s 52-24 home victory over South Carolina.
Finley sparked a balanced offensive attack that produced 541 total yards – including 17 of 21 passing for 265 yards, a pair of touchdowns to Terrace Marshall Jr. – to go along with a rushing touchdown at the end of a 16-play, game-opening drive.
Johnson played one series near the end of the fourth quarter, rushing twice for 19 yards.
“The thing I was most impressed with was his poise,” Orgeron said of Finley. “He looked so confident; made some great decisions. TJ’s got a cannon for an arm. He escaped some pressure which we thought he could because he lost the weight. He was 265 when he came, so he lost a lot of weight. His presence on the field, that’s what I was most impressed with.
“He can improve on some decision making, improve on making a couple of more decisions at the line of scrimmage and where to go with the ball, but that’s going to come with maturity. I hope he plays as good as he played the first game. That would be good enough for me, but we can do more things to an offense now that we’ve seen his poise. Now (offensive coordinator) Steve (Ensminger) knows he can take it to another step. I think you’re going to see a couple of different wrinkles that we didn’t want to put in the first game and make sure the game plan was simple for him.”
Here’s what else Orgeron had to say:
“Building on a lot of improvement from last week. We still have a long way to go, especially on defense. Our team’s looking forward to going to Auburn. They’re a very good football team. This has always been a battle. . .comes down to the last play. Special teams have always played a big part of this game.”
On the preparations for Finley who is potentially making his first start on the road
“We prepared for crowd noise which we had yesterday. We do a couple of different things on the road that we don’t do at home and those things are in place. We had crowd noise. We got best against best, give him as much repetitions as we can – especially blitzing – and having protection for him and having him make the right decision which we all saw he could do last Saturday night.”
On why the LSU-Auburn series produces so many competitive games
“The respect. We have a lot of respect for Coach Malzahn. I have a lot of respect for (defensive coordinator) Kevin Steele. I know a lot of their coaches. We recruit the same type of kids. We’re very competitive but in a professional way. I think those guys are good guys, very professional. I think their football team plays hard. They get up every year for LSU and LSU gets up for Auburn. It’s just been a great battle because there’s a lot of great athletes, a lot of great coaching going on in the game.”
On taking into consideration injuries to players such as Alabama’s Jalen Waddle and how those things may have impacted Ja’Marr Chase’s decision to opt out.
“I recruited Jalen and it made me sick to see that. I felt bad. He’s such a great young man, a great player. I hate to see that happen to anyone.
“I’m sure Ja’Marr Chase and his family thought of it that way. When you look at Terrace Marshall and he decided to play and is having a great year. When you play and you show the NFL scouts what you’re doing, I think your stock rises. I think Ja’Marr’s going to have an excellent career. That was his decision. I think still think he’s going to be a top five pick. He’s a great player. I think it can go either way.”
On whether roster management has more difficult this season
“It’s just a little different. Players can opt out. Some days our guys are out with the COVID, whether they have it or quarantine. Going into the season you don’t know what games are going to be played, so there’s a lot of uncertainty and you’ve got to deal with it. The players have uncertainty. They hear a lot of stuff. It’s just something you’ve got to deal with.”
On whether you’ve noticed the eagle that Auburn releases and flies into Jordan-Hare Stadium
“I’ve seen it on TV. I think it’s one of the greatest thing in sports. I love it. I’m always in the dressing room, but you hear the roar. It’s pretty cool. Good for them.”
On your impressions of Auburn defensive tackle Colby Wooden
“Disruptive. Very athletic. He plays into their scheme. I know Kevin, I know their defensive line coach. They do a great job of coaching those guys and it looks like he’s getting better and better each game. He’s a force. He’s someone we have to deal with.”
On your memories of playing together with the late Joe Delaney at Northwestern State and the similarities he has to his nephew Terrace Marshall Jr.
“When I’m in a meeting and I turn to the right and I see Terrace’s face, it reminds me. I played as a true freshman with Joe Delaney. Excellent back. Great person. Was always around. Humble guy, hard worker. Was always first in the locker room and last one to leave. Loved the game, loved his coaches just like Terrace. Terrace is almost a replica of Joe D. and that’s about the biggest compliments that I can ever give anybody.”
On how even with a humble nature Terrace Marshall Jr. handles the big stage
“That comes with his family. They’re humble people, great character people. I was the first one to receive the Joe Delaney Leadership Award at Northwestern. That’s probably one of the highest awards you can get at that school and that’s because of Joe’s leadership. Terrace is starting to show the same leadership with me. He was in my office last week, wanting to know who the starting quarterback was and gave me his opinion. The team was really split on Max and TJ and thought they both could do it, so we let them battle it out and worked out for TJ. I think Max goes in he’s going to do just as good.”
On what improvements the defense has made since beginning the process of simplify it
“We held them to 24 points. That’s a big improvement right there. Less mental errors. I’m not saying we didn’t have any, but it’s getting to where it’s least manageable. I thought we played the run better. We still have some fits. We’re sacking the quarterback, tackles for loss and getting pressure. We’re a plus-6 in turnover ratio. All of that is a product of an attacking defense. Now we’ve got to quit the mental errors and get our guys in the right place.”