DESTIN, Fla. — The meeting lasted at least three hours.
The participants of this unique film session didn’t have to leave for lunch—it was catered into LSU’s offensive staff meeting room.
There, on the room’s far wall, a projector flickered to life with plays from Joe Burrow’s days as an Ohio State quarterback. The air filled with football talk from LSU coach Ed Orgeron, offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and the Burrow clan: the quarterback himself, his football-coaching father Jimmy and his brother Dan.
“All ’ball,” Orgeron described it.
On a day when transfers were the hottest topic at SEC spring meetings, the second-year Tigers head coach relived the film breakdowns and boiled crawfish that helped land one of the biggest fish in this offseason’s grad transfer market.
Burrow, a four-star prospect who spent three years as a backup for the Buckeyes, signed with LSU a week ago and moved to Baton Rouge this past weekend. A graduate transfer, he can play immediately with two years of eligibility.
Many in and around the LSU football program believe that Burrow has very quickly replaced whoever you thought was the favorite to step into one of the nation’s most criticized positions over the last half decade: LSU starting quarterback.
His most recent predecessors under center have never been far away from intense scrutiny. Anthony Jennings, Brandon Harris, Danny Etling and… Joe Burrow?
Orgeron heaped praise on his new quarterback, calling him a “game-changer and difference maker” in his first public comments since Burrow’s signing. “He’s smart and tough, got accuracy.”
How one of the country’s most heralded recruiters, Orgeron, landed one of the nation’s most prized transfers, Burrow, involves a 48-hour trip the quarterback’s family took to Baton Rouge.
“He didn’t want the red carpet. He wanted football,” Orgeron said from the Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort Hotel on Tuesday, the opening day of the four-day SEC spring meetings, much of which has focused on NCAA transfer legislation. “He didn’t want none of the recruiting process, none of that.”
Burrow dined with coaches Friday night, May 11, at Texas de Brazil, a pricey steakhouse chain that coaches use to court high school recruits during official visits. The film study unfolded Saturday. Coaches showed clips of Burrow while at Ohio State, comparing and contrasting them to plays in Ensminger’s new offense—specifically the system he ran in 2016 as LSU’s interim offensive coordinator.
“Had a nice cut-up of some of the plays that he ran and some of the plays we run. We asked him to take us through his reads. He was excellent,” Orgeron said. “He knew exactly what was going on, exactly the coverage, the reads. We went through some quarterback run plays. He was A-plus in that meeting.”
Coaches showed Burrow a video that focused on gaudy statitics the Tigers mounted during Ensminger’s interim stint. Saturday night included a dining trip to Mike Anderson’s, a popular seafood restaurant in Baton Rouge.
“He really liked the boiled crawfish,” Orgeron said.
The weekend in Baton Rouge—the food, the film study and, even more so, the lure of playing time—“turned the tide” in his transfer recruitment, Orgeron said. Burrow arrived for his visit after a one-day trip to Cincinnati, the only other team Burrow requested to speak with and the one many considered the favorite, Orgeron among them.
“When he came here, he was thinking about Cincinnati pretty hard,” the coach admitted.
Instead, Burrow chose a place 1,000 miles from his home, The Plains, Ohio. His family was on board, including his father Jimmy Burrow, a longtime defensive coordinator at Ohio University. In fact, “all of his family” wanted him at LSU, Orgeron said.
“But he made the decision on his own,” the coach said. “When he came and saw the opportunity he had, met some of our players, met Coach Ensminger, he liked it, liked what we presented to him.”
LSU first-year safeties coach Bill Busch served as the lead recruiter on Burrow. Busch served on Urban Meyer’s support staff at Ohio State in 2015, Burrow’s freshman season.
There was another convincing person, too: Burrow’s brother Dan, who lives in Houston.
“Got to give Bill Busch a lot of credit,” Orgeron said. “His brother Dan was here and really, really was instrumental in convincing him to come to LSU throughout the week.”
Orgeron said he did not promise Burrow the job but had heard other programs did. (The Bearcats were the only other school the quarterback visited.) Still, at LSU Burrow’s path to the starting job appears relatively clear. “He obviously saw that there’s not an established quarterback, and he took the opportunity,” Orgeron said.
Burrow will compete against second-year players and previous four-star signees Myles Brennan and Lowell Narcisse and redshirt junior Justin McMillan, a Texas native who is scheduled to graduate in July and could potentially transfer elsewhere to play immediately, as Burrow did.
Is Orgeron replacing a potential transfer with one? Maybe, but the coach says none of the three have given any indication that they’re planning on leaving.
If Burrow does secure the starting job, he would be at least the third former major college transfer to break into the first team this season for LSU: Defensive end Breiden Fehoko and receiver Jonathan Giles, both from Texas Tech, are set to start in 2018. Tight end Thaddeus Moss, the son of Randy Moss who transferred last year from NC State, is expected to be heavily involved, too. Orgeron has used the transfer market more than his predecessor, Les Miles.
“Our team has embraced all transfers, all junior college guys,” Orgeron said. “They understand there’s an opportunity, and competition makes us all better. There’s no starting quarterback at LSU right now. None’s been named. He’s going to just jump into the race. He’s going to have the opportunity to earn it just like everybody else.”