When TJ Finley walked into Ed Orgeron's office to tell him of his decision to transfer, he was very emotional. The Ponchatoula native always grew up wanting to wear the purple and gold and following a very competitive spring with Max Johnson and Myles Brennan, felt it was a numbers game he wasn't on the right side of.
It was a quarterback room that was as deep in Baton Rouge as it's ever been and for Orgeron to watch as one of his play callers entered the transfer portal, it wasn't easy.
"First of all, TJ came and talked to me like a man in my office. He didn't want to leave, he was crying and LSU meant a lot to him but it was a decision that was made that was best for him," Orgeron said. "We wish him the best, TJ is always going to be a part of our family. He's got a great family and after the game we're gonna shake hands."
A few weeks later Finley announced his decision to transfer to Auburn, an SEC rival that LSU knows all too well. Then Finley started to perform really well in fall camp, earned the No. 2 job behind veteran Bo Nix and positioned himself to take over if anything went wrong. As it turns out, he probably earned his chance a little sooner than even he thought.
Finley was brought off the bench against Georgia State last weekend and led Auburn on a 98-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to avoid a huge college football upset. Now instead of preparing for Nix, who combined for 381 yards and four touchdowns a year ago, LSU is in a precarious position of preparing for two guys.
"TJ came in there and what a tremendous job he did to come in there and win the game," Orgeron said. "Made some tremendous plays, is a great young man, great young quarterback."
Auburn coach Bryan Harsin reiterated to the media on Monday that there hasn't been a decision on which of the two quarterbacks will start in Death Valley on Saturday night. The two couldn't be more different as quarterbacks with Finley's generational arm talent being the catalyst to his game while Nix relies on his legs and arm to be more of a dual threat option.
But because this Auburn identity is so predicated on the run game, Orgeron said that the conversation defensively revolves around preparing for both Finley and Nix's arms and not necessarily change the gameplan in the run game.
"You have to have a plan. You have to see what Bo does well, what TJ does well, I don't think the run game's gonna change," Orgeron said. "I don't think the pass protections are gonna change, they move one quarterback more than the other. It's more of a throwing style, we know very well how TJ throws the ball, he has a cannon for an arm. I think it's more or less what type of passing game they're gonna have with both of those guys."
Orgeron was also asked about the transfer portal, particularly when it comes to quarterbacks. It's one of those positions where only one can play at a time and LSU is in a unique position where it's really benefitted and hurt the program over the last few years.
"Only one can play and it's tough because you have a lot of great men in competition and sometimes it's like that," Orgeron said. "Some guys decide they want to go somewhere else, I'm glad the transfer portal was there for us. It's worked in our favor and now we lose a quarterback to an SEC program. You have to take the high road, wish them the best and move forward."