The 2016 season is over, and rosters are starting to come together for 2017. It’s the perfect time to evaluate each team’s quarterback situation for next season.
Quarterback issues were a significant part of the SEC’s struggles last season, but the league has starters coming back at 12 of the 14 schools. The turnaround should be immediate.
LSU struggled for years to find quality quarterback play, but a transfer stepped up in 2016. While the production still was inconsistent, there’s hope for the future.
To clarify, this grade takes into account a team’s entire quarterback situation, including backups. Just having a great starter isn’t necessarily good enough to earn a quality grade.
Make sure and read all our previous quarterback installments:
Alabama Crimson Tide | Arkansas Razorbacks | Auburn Tigers | Florida Gators | Georgia Bulldogs | Kentucky Wildcats | Mississippi State Bulldogs | Missouri Tigers | Ole Miss Rebels | South Carolina | Tennessee Volunteers | Texas A&M Aggies | Vanderbilt Commodores
Key returners: Danny Etling (senior), Brandon Harris (senior)
Key departures: None
Key additions: Lowell Narcisse (true freshman), Myles Brennan (true freshman), Lindsey Scott (redshirt)
Returning production: 2,262 yards, 11 TDs, 5 INTs
Departing production: None
Inability to find and develop quarterback play was a thorn in Les Miles’ side for years. Just four games into the season, it finally did him in. But after Ed Orgeron put his signature on the offense, things improved quickly.
Following an impressive stretch against Jacksonville State, Purdue transfer Danny Etling won the starting job. Especially against Texas A&M, Louisville and Southern Miss, he showed just how effective quality quarterback play could be.
Unfortunately, production remained mostly that – flashes. Etling threw only 5 touchdowns in eight conference games. The Tigers were 3-1 when he threw and scored against SEC teams and 6-1 in all games. For comparison, the Tigers were 2-2 when he did not.
Though Etling’s arm is average, new offensive coordinator Matt Canada might be able to take better advantage of his gifts. The former Pitt coordinator transformed Nathan Peterman into the highest-rated passer in the ACC. Yes, he was more efficient than Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky and Lamar Jackson. If one thing is certain, the offense will be much more quarterback friendly next season.
Etling is probably the starter in 2017, but there are several options on the roster. Canada could open up the competition to Brandon Harris once again. Harris started in 2015 and in the 2016 opener against Wisconsin. Eventually, a terrible pick forced him to the bench.
However, the physical skills are there. With the possibility of a simplified offense, Harris could become a factor again. But even if he can’t, Etling has other matchups on the roster.
There are projected to be eight quarterbacks on the roster next season, including walk-ons Tiger Scheyd and Caleb Lewis. But while there are several players without experience returning, Tigers fans should keep their eye on a pair of true freshmen.
Lowell Narcisse is a dual-threat prospect from Louisiana. He will enroll early at the school. Myles Brennan is more of a pocket passer from Mississippi. Both are rated as top 250 prospects. Brennan and Narcisse considered looking elsewhere after Orgeron was hired, but they ended up rejoining the program. It’s likely both players will redshirt, but don’t be surprised to see one of them jump up to third on the depth chart.
LSU boasts experienced players and young, unproven talent. However, the program doesn’t have a clear answer now. If Canada is able to open up the passing game, things get much more interesting. Seeing a year of growth with Etling behind center can only help.