Alright, we’ve avoided it long enough and I think it’s time we finally talk about the LSU football QB battle. TJ Finley is on his way to Auburn and LSU is down to three real candidates for their starting quarterback for the 2021 season. There’s a lot that needs to be taken into account when making this decision. But who will ultimately be the starter come September 4 in Los Angeles for the LSU football program? Let’s make a case for each quarterback
Brennan might be the fan favorite in this quarterback room for the starting job. He stepped onto the campus in Baton Rouge in the fall of 2017, alongside Lowell Narcisse, and sat behind Danny Etling and Justin McMilan. He was a highly touted recruit, ranking 152nd in the class and 6th among pro style quarterbacks. As an LSU fan, I remember the day that Myles committed, de-committed, and committed once again. I was ecstatic to have a quarterback the caliber of Brennan suit up for the Tigers.
Imagine being an LSU fan in the years leading up to Brennan. These were the days before Joe Burrow and after Matt Flynn. We’re talking about the days of Jordan Jefferson, Jarrett Lee, Zach Mettenberger, Anthony Jennings, Brandon Harris, and Danny Etling. There was definitely some talent there, but there wasn’t a pro caliber quarterback in the mix. Fast forward, LSU lands a 4 star recruit with a cannon of an arm and a boat load of potential. Brennan was seen as a quarterback that might be able to bring LSU back to contention for the SEC and National Championships.
After sitting behind Danny Etling in 2017, Brennan saw his first opportunity to compete for the starting job in 2018. I thought he was a shoe in for the starting role… then it happened. May 18, 2018, Joe Burrow announced that he would be transferring to LSU. And in Brennan’s defense, he definitely competed for the starting role. Burrow prevailed and started for LSU in 2018, and we all know what happened in 2019…
2020 was a year that I don’t think any of us will forget anytime soon. COVID-19 plagued the world and everything was kind of turned on its head, especially College Football. We saw opt outs, late starts for conferences, and shortened seasons. This was the hand that Brennan was dealt. Myles Brennan finally got his opportunity to start in this tattered 2020 college football season.
He started for the first three games of the season before being ruled out for an injury for the remainder of the season. Through these first three games he put up a very impressive stat line. Brennan went 79-131 with 1112 yards through the air. Tack onto that 11 touchdown passes and only 3 interceptions and that makes for an incredibly promising start to the season.
In his third game starting, Brennan suffered a lower body injury against Missouri in the first half of the game. This injury would place him on the sideline for the remainder of the season, but he would valiantly play through this injury for the remainder of the game. This act of toughness, along with the loyalty that Brennan has for this LSU Tigers football program might make him a fan favorite for the starting spot, but is that enough to win this spot?
Following the tragic injury of Myles Brennan against Missouri in week 3 of the SEC season, he would be ruled out against South Carolina. This began a quarterback battle between the two freshman quarterbacks on LSU’s football roster: TJ Finley and Max Johnson. It came as a shock to a lot of people that TJ Finley was named the starter for this homecoming matchup against South Carolina. Max Johnson was the higher ranked recruit between the two. Regardless, TJ Finley played the best game of his season. He went 17-21 passing, racking up 265 yards and a touchdown in the process. It seemed pretty clear that Finley would remain the starter in Brennan’s absence.
Fast forward one week and this LSU football team finds themselves on the road in Auburn, AL. The start of this season was pretty lackluster, but LSU had found a little hope after beating South Carolina with their true freshman quarterback. TJ Finley was set to have a great performance against Auburn. This game proved to be a disappointment for the true freshman quarterback, going 13-24 with only 143 yards and two interceptions before being replaced by Max Johnson. Johnson took the field and finished the game 15-24 with 172 yards and a touchdown. This performance by Johnson didn’t wow the coaching staff in the same way that Finley’s debut did. Thus, Finley was named the starter for the Arkansas game three weeks later (following a cancellation of the Alabama game).
Johnson didn’t see any playing time in a victory against Arkansas, and would not see the field again until he replaced Finley again in a loss to Texas A&M. In both the Auburn and Texas A&M games, rumblings over the inconsistency of Finley and arguments over whether the results of these two games would have differed if Johnson would have started began. LSU would go on to face yet another loss to Alabama in the following week, another game where Johnson would come in to replace Finley late in the game. LSU football fans were disgruntled and LSU was risking having their first losing season since 1999. All of this following a dream of a 2019 season. Something had to give.
Finally, on December 12, LSU would go on the road to face the #6 Florida Gators. This was a game that LSU was counted out of from the start. LSU sat at 3-5 and a losing record was inevitable with Florida and Ole Miss standing in the way. Miraculously, Max Johnson (along with a tossed cleat) led LSU to victory in a game that seemed unwinnable. Max Johnson finished the night 21-36 with 239 passing yards, 52 rushing, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Max Johnson proved that he could lead this team to an important victory when it mattered. TJ Finley would see no action that night.
In the final game of the Tigers’ season, they would face Ole Miss at home. This is the night that Max Johnson would truly make a name for himself. He really fell into his own in a 53-46 victory over Ole Miss. Johnson would post 27-51, a massive 451 yards passing with three passing touchdowns, and 45 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns to cap off the performance. Johnson posted two victories in his two starts of this season and would not give up his spot to Finley in either matchup.
Max Johnson surely shows a lot of potential to lead this LSU football team to many victories to come. I believe that it could be advantageous for LSU to keep Johnson in this starting position, as to build experience and a sense of leadership in the young quarterback.
Nussmeier will be a true freshman this fall, but don’t take this lightly. Please reference the above section if you are wary. LSU played a majority of last season with true freshman quarterbacks. On top of that, Nussmeier is the 4th highest rated QB recruit that LSU has ever suited up. It is abundantly clear that this kid has a ton of talent.
Nussmeier is a pro style quarterback out of Marcus High School in Flower Mound, TX. His high school stats are incredible, and he capped his career off in 2020 going 213-280 with 2815 yards passing, 33 touchdowns, and only 5 interceptions. Nussmeier was an early enrollee at LSU and was able to play in this season’s spring game. Nussmeier finished the game 15-25 with one touchdown and 3 interceptions. Keep in mind that he enrolled in January and has only practiced with this team for mere months. Nussmeier showed flashes of potential in this game and could definitely see playing time in this upcoming season.
It has been reported that LSU will not make this quarterback battle public until August. LSU has three viable options at the quarterback position for this much-anticipated 2021 season. Which quarterback will be taking the first snap of the season against UCLA on September 4 for LSU football? And will this quarterback remain the starter throughout this comeback season for the LSU football program? Only time will tell.