BATON ROUGE, La. — Former LSU quarterback Herb Tyler always goes back to development.
LSU’s quarterback from 1995 to ’98, Tyler knows a thing or two about the current state of LSU football. Twenty-two years ago when Tyler arrived in Baton Rouge for his freshman year, LSU was in the midst of a coaching overhaul just as it is now. Curley Hallman was out. Gerry DiNardo was in. And LSU’s upperclassmen didn’t take kindly to that.
“All the guys loved Curley Hallman. He was a players’ coach,” Tyler said. “DiNardo came in and he put us through the worst two-a-days you could ever imagine. Seniors and juniors, we had a meeting outside the stadium where we had practice, and they wanted to stage a walkout.
“Well, this was my second week in college, and I’m not walking nowhere. I’m staying right here. But I’ll never forget that day where they gathered everybody because they thought DiNardo was being too hard on them.”
To Tyler, this was DiNardo’s way of signaling the beginning of a new era. LSU was in a rut under Hallman. Four consecutive losing seasons was four too many. DiNardo needed to teach the program how to win.
All these years later, Ed Orgeron doesn’t need to teach LSU how to win. He needs to find a way to make the LSU football team win more. And, again, to Tyler, this always comes back to development.
Under Les Miles, Tyler said LSU did a poor job of adequately developing quarterbacks. Be it Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings or any of their predecessors, Tyler said he thinks the leashes were so short and the opportunities were so sparse for these guys because their coaches knew they hadn’t properly prepared them to play quarterback against major college competition.
In Tyler’s mind, there’s one way to fix that: opportunity. No one quarterback, from incumbent starter Danny Etling to Harris vying for his old job to any of the players behind them on the depth chart, should get all the coaches’ focus.
“If you don’t give the guys an opportunity, you’re doing an injustice to yourself,” Tyler said. “You’re only playing with a few pieces of the puzzle.”
One of the major puzzle pieces Tyler said he thinks is going unplayed with is freshman Lindsey Scott Jr.
In a lot of ways, Scott is a spitting image of Tyler from when he was in school. Both are Louisiana natives, Tyler from New Orleans and Scott from just north of Baton Rouge in Zachary. Both are a bit undersized; Tyler was 5-foot-10, and Scott is 5-11. And both were dual-threat high school stars who committed to LSU late in their recruiting process.
But Tyler said he sees more than himself in Scott. In Scott, Tyler said he sees qualities comparable to Clemson quarterback and two-time Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson.
“He has the qualities that only few can possess, and that’s the qualities of relentlessness, leadership, understanding, and he’s just flat out electric,” Tyler said. “He has to get an opportunity. I’ll tell you right now: Including Danny Etling, including Brandon Harris, I think that kid has too much of an upside and that he can be really, truly be successful in the right kind of an offense to where he can be that Deshaun Watson type of cat.”
Still, Etling is LSU’s starter. And Tyler doesn’t have any problem with the way Etling played last season or the way interim offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger handled him. He just thinks there should be a bigger emphasis on competition among those players who haven’t yet received their opportunities.
That doesn’t include Harris.
“Brandon came in with everything on his shoulders,” Tyler said. “His talent speaks for itself. Yeah, he can throw the ball, and he can make certain passes, and he can run a little bit. But you know what? You’ve got to put your team in a certain situation. … I think Brandon Harris can be successful. (But) I think his time here at LSU is probably done.”
The way Tyler sees it, Etling was given a chance to survive and thrive because the fans put no expectations on him. Harris was expected by the coaches and fans to be LSU’s savior from Day 1. That might just be a product of the monster created by modern-day recruiting. Quarterbacks are either expected to come in and fix everything or be banished to Elba, never to be seen or heard from again.
Those same high-risk, high-reward expectations follow LSU’s newest crop of quarterbacks: early-enrollee Lowell Narcisse and committed 4-star Myles Brennan.
Tyler has concerns in regards to both. With Brennan, the major question is whether he’ll be able to step up and play against SEC-caliber competition.
And with Narcisse, the issue is a little more tangible. When Tyler’s son Jay — now a receiver and return man at Stanford — was still in high school, the elder Tyler saw Narcisse play as a young high school quarterback and felt that he still was learning the ins and outs of how to play quarterback. But because Narcisse has suffered two knee injuries since then, Tyler said he’s concerned that Narcisse might’ve missed out on some of the development he otherwise would’ve picked up in his junior and senior seasons.
“What I need to see from him is can you stay healthy and be there when they need you,” Tyler said. “That’s going to be a big thing, and I think he can do it.”
Still, everything comes down to the way new offensive coordinator Matt Canada coaches up these guys. And, from what he’s seen on tape, Tyler thinks Canada is the right man for the job.
“What I’ve seen from afar, (Canada) seems to do a very good job of developing quarterbacks,” Tyler said. “Not from a standpoint of if they can throw a 15-yard out route. But to a standpoint of saying if pre-snap reads say I have more guys on defense on the right side of the center than the left side, maybe I should go to the left side or should I get out of this play and check to a different play.”