For years the knock on LSU was it could recruit every position but the quarterback. The program always produced elite level running backs, defensive backs, linebackers, defensive linemen and even receivers despite less than stellar quarterback play.
As the program has had to recycle through three quarterbacks in 2020 it has become crystal clear that no longer is the case. Junior Myles Brennan and true freshmen TJ Finley and Max Johnson all had their chance to shine throughout this crazy season of injuries, blowout losses and a revolving door of weapons to throw to through opt outs.
Brennan lasted three games before a torn abdomen cost him the rest of his 2020 season. In those three starts, he showed steady improvement each week and helped the offense average 40 points per game while setting program records for the first three games.
When Brennan went down, it was the Ponchatoula native Finley who earned five games as the starter. In those games, Finley showed star making talent with his strong arm, accurate down field throws and poise.
However it was his freshman mistakes that continued to derail his otherwise stellar start to his career. In his 2-3 season as the starter, Finley threw five touchdowns but also five interceptions with a few fumbles mixed in as well.
Following the 55-17 loss to Alabama it became prudent to give Johnson a start or two and he took advantage of his opportunity. Like Finley, Johnson showed poise and confidence beyond his years but it was his mobility and protection of the football that stood out.
In his two starts against Florida and Ole Miss, Johnson recorded eight total touchdowns, 771 total yards and two game winning drives in the final five minutes of each game. Johnson had his shortcomings as well as he only completed 55% of his passes in the two games he started.
But after the win against Ole Miss, Ed Orgeron was all smiles about the freshman's performance.
"He's got ice in his veins. His dad was a Super Bowl champion quarterback. He was raised on football. He knows how to react," Orgeron said of Johnson. "Max is even-keeled, he's the same guy every day. Just proud of him. He matured a lot tonight. He matured a lot in the Swamp. He's going to be a great quarterback for us."
Both will need to improve their accuracy into next season as Finley and Johnson completed 57% and 58% respectively. But needless to say, there figures to be an extremely competitive battle at quarterback starting next spring.
Orgeron did say earlier this season that even with the two true freshmen playing, Brennan was the starter. The question is whether or not that line of thinking has changed because of the experience both of the freshmen gained and seemingly an offseason of development.
That’s also not to mention freshman Garrett Nussmeier who’s set to arrive on campus Jan. 9 and continue his rehab process from a broken bone to his non throwing hand suffered at the end of his senior season.
The quarterback room has never been healthier as the Tigers have three and possibly four legitimate threats at the position. How each one develops in the spring during a much more normal offseason will tell the story.