Orgeron: Don’t expect team’s starting quarterback battle to be decided at least until week before opener with UCLA

LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron said Wednesday inquisitive minds wanting to know who his team’s starting quarterback will be for the 2021 season will have to have patience.

It’s a competition between senior Myles Brennan and sophomore Max Johnson that will begin Aug. 6 when the Tigers open their fall camp and continue at least until the week before the team kicks off their season Sept. 4 at UCLA.

“It’s a toss-up,” Orgeron said during his annual appearance at the Baton Rouge Rotary Club. “It’s going to go all the way down to the wire, probably one week before we play UCLA. We’re going to decide who’s the starting quarterback. I told them it’s competition in everything we do.”

Orgeron, a day removed from his 60th birthday, appeared rejuvenated for his fifth full season at LSU where the Tigers are scheduled to report to campus Aug. 5 and start fall camp the following day.

Orgeron said the two quarterbacks will compete daily in practice and try to gain the upper hand in the race for the starting job during the team’s scrimmages leading up to the UCLA game at the Rose Bowl.

“We have two championship quarterbacks, possible three,” said Orgeron, alluding to freshman Garrett Nussmeier. “Myles played good enough for us to win every one of those (three) games. It wasn’t his fault. Max goes to The Swamp (37-34 win at Florida) and against Ole Miss (53-48 win). Let’s see who’s the best man. Whoever wins we’re going to be in great shape.”

That’s because LSU, which took 53 players to Gainesville in its improbable win over Florida, starts the season with greater stability after more than a double-digit number of players returned to school, giving the Tigers 18 of 22 starters back.

“We’re excited about our team,” he said.

LSU has its entire starting defensive line back and four of five offensive lineman back after junior left tackle Dare Rosenthal recently transferred to Kentucky.

Senior graduate right tackle Austin Deculus and senior left guard Ed Ingram are considered pillars for the Tigers experienced offensive line along with senior graduate center Liam Shanahan, junior left tackle Cam Wire and sophomore right guard Chasen Hines.

Orgeron said a key area for the offensive line’s long-term growth will be the development of reserve linemen sophomore Anthony Bradford and true freshman tackle Garrett Dellinger.

They will be playing for first-year offensive line coach Brad Davis who replaced James Cregg in June.

“I believe the offensive line’s going to be our strength,” Orgeron said. “We have to develop some depth. Those two guys (Bradford and Dellinger), I’m expecting to get some playing time behind our experienced offensive line.”

Orgeron is hopeful of a breakout season from his junior running back tandem of Ty Davis-Price, who Orgeron said has slimmed down to 225 pounds, and John Emery Jr. He’s also expecting freshmen Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin to contribute early as well.

“It’s time for them to shine,” Orgeron said of Davis-Price and Emery. “We expect them (Kiner and Goodwin) to play for us and help us with the depth.”

Sophomore Kayshon Boutte is the headliner in a wide receiver group that’s positioned to exhibit tremendous depth from a handful of returning players and a promising group of incoming freshmen.

Senior Jontre’ Kirklin and junior Jaray Jenkins were key contributors last year after LSU lost the services of leading receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall who both opted out at different junctures of the season. Junior Trey Palmer and sophomore Koy Moore are also expected to be in the mix.

Orgeron called his collection of signees – Deion Smith, Chris Hilton, Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas – one of the best he’s signed and also praised freshman Jack Bech who’s expected to begin his career as an offset tight end.

Sophomore Kole Taylor is the team’s clear-cut leader at tight end and walk-on Jack Mashburn of St. Paul’s also drew praise from Orgeron.

“The offense is going to be geared to what you saw in 2019,” Orgeron said of the offense being run by first-year offensive coordinator Jake Peetz. “Spread, throw the ball. Fifty-fifty (run/pass). Get the ball to our player makers, get them in space and let them make a lot of plays.”

Orgeron hit the offseason jackpot with the return of his entire starting defensive line that features a pair of fifth-year tackles in Glen Logan and Neil Farrell Jr. and fifth-year defensive end Andre Anthony to go with seniors Ali Gaye, sophomore BJ Ojulari and Joseph Evans.

While that group is expected to rotate and exhibit the kind of depth that can wear down opposing offensive lines, the Tigers also have additional depth in sophomore Jaquelin Roy, sophomore Jacobian Guillory and incoming freshmen Maason Smith and Bryce Langston.

Seniors Damone Clark and Micah Baskerville are two of the team’s cornerstones at linebacker which will also count on plenty of playing time for senior walk-on Jared Small, who led the team in tackles in the spring game, along with incoming junior college All-American Navonteque “Bug” Strong and Clemson transfer Mike Jones Jr.

“We’ve turned that into a possible strength of our defense,” Orgeron said.

LSU has a pair of anchors leading the secondary in two-time All-American in junior Derek Stingley Jr. and sophomore Eli Ricks with back up help from a pair of sophomores Dwight McGlothern and Raydarious Jones.

With LSU playing with one fewer linebacker on the field in its 4-3 alignment, junior Cordale Flott will take over the nickel position and team with an improved safety position that will include junior free safety Jay Ward, Georgia transfer Major Burns and incoming freshmen Sage Ryan and Derrick Davis Jr.

“He (Burns) transferred and probably has the best chance to start for us,” Orgeron said. “We changed a weakness into a strong position. We’re going to be very strong in that area.”

Peetz represents an overhaul of sorts where Orgeron hired six new coaches – three on either side of the football – that are an average of 20 years younger than the six coaches that departed his staff after last year’s 5-5 season.

“I wanted coaches that could communicate with our players.”

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