Scooter Hobbs column:No harm letting QB walk

Published 7:14 am Monday, January 16, 2023

By Scooter Hobbs

Shocking, I’m telling you. Just shocking.

Or, as they say in the recruiting world … “BOOM!!!”

So I guess I was out of the loop.

But the startling news first caught my attention under the heading: “Tiger fans worst nightmare has come true.”

That was social media’s click-bait version anyway.

But … OMG!

My first inclination was that Tiger Stadium was about to follow the College Football Playoff’s lead and ban tailgating on the premises.

Or maybe introduce black helmets for the 2023 Tigers.

But … no boom here. Everybody just move along.

Instead, it was just another day of college football’s life in the transfer portal era.

LSU’s promising but third-string quarterback Walker Howard is headed to the transfer portal.

I suspect the Tigers will trudge forward and still make a game attempt at fielding a varsity next season. Not to discount Howard. Certainly nothing against him. It would have been a really good story, a legacy following dad Jamie’s footsteps to lead the Tigers. By all accounts he has the talent and mind-set, if not quite that much patience, to have done it.

Someday.

But most likely not this year.

So in today’s football world, you start doing the math, counting noses in front of you and years already behind you, and it doesn’t add up to much playing time.

And the portal is making goo-goo eyes at you.

Get used to it. This is college football now.

In this case you wish Howard well. It’s not like he abandoned the team and left the position room high and dry. He just got caught up in a numbers game.

The old salts will, tell you that you can’t have too many offensive linemen or defensive backs or maybe even tuba players.

But in this case, thinning the herd a tad might even help the Tigers next season.

Quarterback is trickier. The room gets crowded more quickly.

Losing players to the portal, even those who would eventually contribute, especially quarterbacks, is now a fact of life.

At other positions, if you can contribute, you’re going to get on the field, even if just as a part of a rotation.

Not necessarily so at quarterback, where tradition says the luxury of depth tends to morph its way into a full-blown Quarterback Controversy.

It’s even harder now with the lure of the portal always tempting backups.

Head coach Brian Kelly said all the right things immediately after the Citrus Bowl.

He couldn’t hide backup Garrett Nussmeier anymore. Not after the redshirt freshman, forced into action by starter Jayden Daniels’ injury in the SEC Championship game, went all swashbuckler against Georgia, throwing for 294 yards in the second half against the eventual dominant national champions.

No harm letting Kelly made sure Nussmeier got meaningful snaps against Purdue with the bowl still in doubt — the period of doubt was a small window, granted, but it was the thought that counted.

Howard even got the whole fourth quarter to get his feet wet in that 63-7 rout.

With Daniels, who led the Tigers to an unexpected SEC West title already announcing he’d be back for his umpteenth season, Kelly reiterated right after the bowl game that Daniels is the unquestioned starter.

But he also said, “Garrett will get an opportunity to compete” in spring practice.

“We’re committed to … an open process where you can go in, and we’re going to give you an opportunity to continue to grow. That’s going to allow both of our quarterbacks — and Walker — to continue to grow.”

Of course, he also said he “absolutely, 100 percent” believed that all three quarterbacks would be around at least for spring work.

Fitting three with obvious talents into the mix was a problem Kelly or any coach may have relished having, but a problem nevertheless.

Ask around. Pretty sure there’s still only one ball.

Now Kelly only has to worry about keeping two quarterbacks happy.

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