Scooter Hobbs column: Bona fide competition starting for quarterback

Published 9:43 am Friday, August 12, 2022

It appears that LSU is going to have a quarterback battle royale, one that goes down to the wire, whether it needs one or not.

And maybe the Tigers do need an honest competition there.

I could even end up eating my words.

Sure, head coach Brian Kelly was doing what first-year coaches do in declaring: new start, every position open for grabs.

If so, what are we to make of the Tigers’ first major scrimmage Thursday?

Particularly the first one of August.

But on Thursday, Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels took all but a handful of snaps with the projected first team.

Mmmmm.

And, yes, there’s more.

Not seen was redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier, who’s also been listed as in the mix.

But Kelly said the reason was that Nussmeier sprained an ankle this week — he’ll be back sooner than later — and made it a point to say that otherwise he “would have been in there taking first-team reps as well.”

OK, let’s play along.

One refreshing thing you may have noticed already about Kelly is that he’s noticeably short on “coach speak.” He generally says what he thinks, without a lot of regard for hurt feelings or sugar-coating.

So if he still thinks he has a tough decision to make for the most important spot on the team, I’ll buy it.

“I think that you have a very competitive situation,” he said after the scrimmage, warning media not to waste much time deciphering the snap breakdown among the quarterbacks.

Here was the way this quarterback competition was perceived, at least outside of the football ops building.

Brennan is the “safe choice,” with an excellent arm, all the better to utilize the strength of the team, that glut of talented wide receivers.

Daniels, who started three years at Arizona State, is a wild card, the typical dual threat whose feet will wow you with one eye-popping play, but have you pulling out your hair out on the next.

Probably more upside to him, but he’s certainly not a polished passer.

Nussmeier is a redshirt freshman, but to hear Kelly talk, maybe that’s not being held against him.

Brennan would also be the sentimental choice, having shown more patience than any Tiger ever while twice earning the starting job but losing it to truly freakish injuries.

But this is the SEC, not Little League. Sentiment doesn’t figure into it.

Still, again working on preconceived notions that may or may not be true, I would have figured Kelly as a coach who’d lean toward the safe choice, not wanting a lot of unpredictable drama — good and bad, but outrageous either way — out of the position.

And he keeps bringing up Nussmeier’s name without being prompted, raving about the talent, so there may well be something there.

Brennan, the safe choice, may be in danger of being labeled the “safe choice.”

As Kelly said Thursday, “Myles is effective and as smart as any quarterback.”

What does that mean? That your blind date has a great personality?

At any rate, it’s clear that this is real competition.

Next week would be the time frame Kelly has said he’d like it narrowed down.

The skill sets are so different that you have to figure the preparation leading up to the opener against Florida State needs to know what quarterback to build around.

Thursday only brought more questions, but if you wanted to overreact you’d say Daniels appears to be the leader.

Kelly, in fact, was asked if Thursday’s distribution of the reps was any hint of things to come.

“Not yet,” he said.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com