A cloud of purple-and-gold smoke billowed from Tiger Stadium on Monday after as the team got set for its game-week preparations.
Just kidding, but the Tigers do finally have a starting quarterback.
Graduate transfer Joe Burrow has beaten out sophomore Myles Brennan and will start against Miami on Sunday night, according to a report from Ross Dellenger Sports Illustrated. A source confirmed to Tiger Rag that LSU coach Ed Orgeron will announce the decision to the team meeting this afternoon.
Orgeron announced earlier at his Monday press luncheon that he and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger had come to a final decision that morning and informed the two quarterbacks of the news.
“It was a very, very tight race,” Orgeron said. “And let me say this to you, both quarterbacks are ready to go in the game. I will not announce a starting quarterback to the media because I want to tell the team first, but those guys have been told.”
Orgeron, Ensminger and both quarterbacks met Monday morning, during which time the final grades were given to both Burrow and Brennan. Both received nearly identical rep totals and the final margin was razor thin, according to Orgeron. The coach said he’s be perfectly fine with either as his starter.
“We had a very good conversation, and we’re solid in our decision,” Orgeron said. “We named a starting quarterback. He’s going to take most of the reps this week, but let me say this to you: if he doesn’t perform well, we have no problem putting in the second-team quarterback.”
He continued: “It was a very close decision. In fact it seesawed back and forth all last week. The grades were really close. Either quarterback could have won out. Steve and I talked about it last night. We went with the grades and the winner came out on the sheet of paper with the grades. That was the deciding factor.”
So ends one of the more wacky quarterback competitions in recent memory at LSU — though it ended with the result that’s been widely expected since Burrow joined the program in June.
LSU began fall camp with four candidates to replace Danny Etling under center. The competition was cut in half after the first scrimmage as Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse left the program within 24 hours of each other. McMillan landed at Tulane as a graduate transfer while Narcisse went the JUCO route.
That left just Burrow and Brennan, who were “dead even” as recently as the end of last week, according to Orgeron. The coach has said repeatedly that he wouldn’t hesitate to switch quarterback if the starter isn’t playing well.
Teammates on both sides of the ball attested to having no idea who the quarterback would be because the competition had appeared that close in camp.
“Nah, I don’t know,” linebacker Devin White said. “Both of the guys have been taking reps with the No. 1 team and Coach O hasn’t told us anything, and it really doesn’t matter. Both guys are prepared. Whoever it is, if one goes down, the next one can step in and finish the job. I know on defense we’re going to back him up all game long.”
“I don’t know. We can’t tell,” wide receiver Jonathan Giles said. “When Coach O says it’s been a close race, it’s definitely been a close race. Myles has done a good job every day of competing. Joe has done a good job. Honestly, we don’t know. Like you all, we’re waiting to see who it’s going to be.”
Burrow’s path to the starting nod began with a quiet-but-concerted effort to win over his teammates without ruffling too many feathers since there were already three quarterbacks in the room who’d been competing for the job since the spring.
Orgeron and teammates credit Burrow for being a vocal leader in the huddle, but he began the summer quietly winning conditioning sprints without saying a word to anyone. Burrow called receivers to set up a time to run routes together in the indoor facility on his first official day in Baton Rouge.
“He handled it perfectly,” Giles said. “He came came in when he first announced he was coming to LSU, and he called me and asked me if we could run routes. We ran routes that first day he got in, and ever since then he’s been a great leader. He’s a great friend. I hang out with him off the field. I think he won a lot of guys over with that.
“It really surprised me because he just committed here and I didn’t expect him to be like that. I thought he was going to get settled in and things like that. First thing he did was call me and a couple other receivers to run routes.”
LSU and Miami are set to kick off at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday night at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.