Orgeron said highly anticipated quarterback battle between Johnson, Brennan would have set tone for entire team

LSU running backs coach Kevin Faulk works with one of his running backs during Friday's first fall practice. Photo by: Ron Higgins

In a perfect world, LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron would have liked to have addressed his team’s first preseason practice Friday with the starting quarterback battle he envisioned.

However, because of a freak accident over the weekend suffered by senior quarterback Myles Brennan, that competition won’t take place. Sophomore Max Johnson, who led the Tigers to a pair of season-ending wins in 2020, is the team’s clear-cut starter going into the Sept. 4 opener at UCLA.

“We miss Myles,” Orgeron said during his post practice news conference. “It (the accident) was very unfortunate. I think Max and Myles and the entire team were looking forward to the competition. It was very close; we didn’t’ know who was going to be the starting quarterback. I thought the competition would have been very good for the football team because there is competition at almost every position.”

Orgeron said his team conducted a walk-through practice Friday morning and followed in the afternoon with a two-hour practice in helmets and shorts.

“I thought the quarterbacks threw the ball well,” Orgeron said of Johnson and freshman Garrett Nussmeier. “(Kayshon) Boutte caught the ball well and (Malik) Nabers made a big run. (Freshmen running backs) Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin showed some good stuff.

“There were a lot of positive things, but we have to get in football shape. Summer conditioning gets you ready for camp, camp gets you ready for football. That’s the part of camp we’re going to be in for a while now. It’s an acclimation and our guys are going to get better shape. Get used to the elements. It was pretty warm today. After a couple of days, they’ll get used to it.”

During the media’s 20-minute viewing period of practice the following players were either not there (Charles Turner) or outfitted in a gold, non-contact jersey (Ali Gaye, Devonte Lee, Josh Williams, Antoine Sampah, Aaron Moffitt, Glen Logan).

Here’s what else Orgeron had to say:

On expanding the offensive/defensive packages installed in the spring

“I don’t know if it’s more expanded or reduced. A lot of the spring we had a lot of different ideas. We had different people, we had some new people wanting to try some things and we didn’t know our personnel like we know them now. I think we kind of streamlined the package. (Offensive line coach) Brad (Davis) came in and added some things, some verbiage, some techniques. It was streamlined what our players can do. That’s what happened this summer.”

On some of Max Johnson’s characteristics

“I see him every day and he’s a competitor. He’s serious. He reminds me of Joe (Burrow) in a lot of ways. The intangibles. The things that he does. Work ethic. He wants to be No. 1. He doesn’t say much. There’s not a lot of joking around. He’s always doing well in the classroom. He’s also competing to be first, always competing in the weight room. Always studying. Football guy, football family. Competitive. He wants to be great. He doesn’t have to tell me about it. He does have the intangibles. I thought he had a very good day today. He’s tall, smart and can see a lot of things. There are some things he has to improve on but he’s a young player. I do believe he’s going to be a championship quarterback.”

On if there’s an attitude like 2018 that “we’re not messing around, we’re here to get better

“We know that we have to be better than we were last year. That was not the LSU standard of performance. I think there’s a little chip on my shoulder. A chip on their shoulder. A lot of guys came back for that reason. We knew that we could play better. We feel we have a very good football team, but we feel we have to improve ourselves. It’s the LSU standard of performance. Expectations are high and we invite that.”

On the need to change the offense to protect Max Johnson from injury or let him loose

“You have to do the things you have to do to win. Just like we did with Joe. We ran quarterback draws with Joe.  He scrambled, he made plays when he had. There’s a limit. Max is supposed to be a drop-back quarterback. I don’t think we’re going to have 15 different quarterback runs where he’s a primary runner. He’s a passer but there’s some things we have to do to challenge the defense to win the game. There’s some things in football you’ve got to do and there are things we’re going to do but we’re going to be smart.”

On looking for one running back to emerge or will it be more by committee

“I believe it’s time for Tyrion (Davis-Price) and John (Emery) to do it. I’d like to see that. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see Armoni (Goodwin), that I don’t want to see Josh (Williams), Corey (Kiner). . .I want to give them a chance. But those guys (Davis-Price and Emery) have to be the lead dogs for us to get to where we want to go. If another guy beats them out, he beats them out. But it’s time for those guys to shine. They’re very capable of doing it. For the most part, they’re in great shape. (Running backs coach) Kevin (Faulk) has them in the right mindset. I’m going to be interested to see how they play this year.”

On updating the tight end position, primarily Nick Storz who wasn’t at practice

“Right now, it looks like he’s going to be a medical (redshirt). We’re still getting some information. It’s unfortunate because I don’t know he’ll play football again. We still have some research to do there. (Walk-on) Jack Mashburn is a guy that has to come along. Kole (Taylor) has gotten bigger, about 240-250. (Freshman) Jack (Bech) is a very athletic tight end. We may have to move somebody else if one of those guys get injured. We’ll be playing with a tight end most of the time. We have some guys I believe that can do it. I’m looking at Jack and Mashburn backing up Kole.”

On offensive line coach Brad Davis’ coaching style

“He’s very smart. He gets the players to believe in him. He cares about his players. He’s from Baton Rouge. He recruited most of those guys; he has a relationship with most of those guys. I think they respect him. He’s vocal. He’s aggressive, he wants to run the football. He wants to be great on the offensive line. I’m looking forward to him having a great season with the offensive line.”

On whether freshman defensive lineman Jacobian Guillory will get playing time

“Hopefully, he can play this year. He deserves a chance to play. He has to have a very good camp. He squatted something like 650 pounds the other day. He’s had a good summer. He got a lot of reps today and did very well. He’s in the best condition he’s been in. He’s lost some weight. He has to be more consistent and stay in his gap. He’s very strong. He can be a very good football player for us. He’s not there yet, but he’s coming along.”

On envisioning a role for freshman defensive back Sage Ryan

“He had an interception in team period today. Our guys love him. He’s probably one of our top returners and we’ll use him in the kicking game. We want to use him at nickel, but we also want to use him at safety. We’re looking for him to come out and play excellent on special teams, maybe back up Cordale (Flott) at nickel and also learn the safety. He’s very smart. I want to send him (on blitzes). I think he’s a good blitzer. He’s very aggressive, very smart. Ball hawk. I think he’ll be a good weapon for us.”

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