While there are benefits to knowing now that sophomore Max Johnson will be LSU's starting quarterback, the Tigers also could have profited from what was expected to be a close competition for the position before Myles Brennan's recent fluke, off-the-field injury, coach Ed Orgeron said.
“First of all, we miss Myles. Very unfortunate. And I think Max and Myles and the whole team were looking forward to the competition,” Orgeron said Friday night after the opening practice of fall camp. “It was very close. We didn’t know who was going to be the starting quarterback. I thought the competition would have been very good for the football team to see that because there’s competition at every position almost.”
Brennan, a fifth-year senior was also hurt most of last season, broke his left and non-throwing arm Sunday night when he tripped and fell with his hands full of fishing equipment and landed on his left side, unable to brace himself, his father, Owen, has said.
Brennan waited behind Danny Etling and Joe Burrow before finally getting his chance to start as a redshirt junior last season — and he was on an early pace to have one of the most prolific passing seasons in LSU history. But during his third game — a 45-41 loss at Missouri — Brennan injured his abdomen. He finished the game, but was unable to play again the rest of the 2020 season.
Brennan completed 60.3% of his passes for 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions before his injury, an average of 370.6 yards passing and nearly four TDs per game.
LSU opens its season Sept. 4 at UCLA, and Orgeron said there is not yet a timeline for Brennan's return to football.
Johnson, son of former NFL QB Brad Johnson, gives the Tigers a different dynamic because he's a superior runner. But Orgeron said that doesn't mean LSU will fill the play book with designed QB runs.
“Max wants to be a drop-back quarterback. We talked about that,” Orgeron continued. “I don’t think we’re going to have 15 different quarterback runs.
“He’s a passer, but there’s some things that we have to do to challenge the defense, to win the game,” Orgeron added. "There’s some things in football you got to do. And there’s some things we’re going to do. But we’re going to be smart.”
Johnson appeared in six games as a freshman and went 2-0 as a starter late last season to help LSU finish 5-5 and avoid its first losing record since 1999. Johnson completed 58.7% of his passes for 1,069 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception.
Johnson also gained 119 yards with two TDs rushing.
Meanwhile, Orgeron said LSU plans to be without tight end Nick Storz this season because of an unspecified, career-threatening health matter.
“We're not sure yet. We're still getting some information,” Orgeron said. “It’s unfortunate. I don’t know if he’ll be able to play football again. We still have some research to do there, but it looks like that's going to happen.”
Orgeron indicated that Kole Taylor and Jack Bech were top candidates to play tight end this season.
“I believe in Kole. He's gotten bigger,” Orgeron said, noting that the 6-foot-7 sophomore now weighs nearly 250 pounds.
“Jack is a very athletic tight end. We may have to move somebody else if one of those guys gets hurt. I do believe we got some guys that can do it,” Orgeron continued. "But it looks like Kole's going to be our main guy.”
Orgeron also foreshadowed considerable playing time for freshman defensive back Sage Ryan, a coveted recruit from Lafayette, Louisiana, who had an interception during 11-on-11 drills in Friday's practice.
“Our guys love him. He's probably going to be one of our top returners,” Orgeron said, noting that he could back up Cordale Flott at nickel back and also will work at safety.
“I think he's a good blitzer,” Orgeron added. "He's very aggressive, very smart, a ball hawk. I think he’s going to be a great player for us.”
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