Brian Kelly is entering his first season as the head coach at LSU, and he has one of the most intriguing quarterback battles in the country to settle before he takes the field this fall. Veteran Myles Brennan, Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels and redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier are all vying for the top spot on the depth chart this offseason, and the battle is far from over.
Kelly installed the basics in spring practice but will tweak the offense as needed once fall camp gets underway.
"We needed to put a new offense in. That offense really needed to take precedence over fitting it towards any one particular quarterback," he said in an interview with Fox 8 in New Orleans. "The reality is each one has a different skillset. So what will happen now when we go into camp is that the real work begins because we are going to need to fit the offense to each one of their skill sets. So the separation will take place in preseason camp."
What does that really mean, though? Kelly has typically used a quarterback who primarily does damage through the air but is mobile enough to get 300 or 400 yards per season on the ground with sack yardage included. However, it doesn't sound like he's married to that style at LSU based on his comments.
Let's break down how each candidate can fit into Kelly's first offense in Baton Rouge.
|Player||School||Games||Passing Yards||Passing TDs||INTs||Rushing Yards||Rushing TDs|
The senior was a three-year starter at Arizona State, and while he hasn't taken a snap in the purple and gold, he is, by far, the most experienced of the bunch. He threw for 6,025 yards and 32 touchdowns 29 games with the Sun Devils and added 1,288 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns during those three seasons. His ability to stress defenses in a variety of ways fits perfectly into what Kelly typically demands out of the position. After all, he lured Daniels to Baton Rouge for a reason.
However, there is a drawback to Daniels' resume. His passer rating has dropped in each of his three seasons, including a 136.19 mark last year -- seventh in the Pac-12. He threw as many touchdowns as interceptions last season (10) and his yards per attempt average dropped every year from 2019-21. To put it more simply, he has regressed. That likely played a big role in Daniels' decision to enter the portal in an attempt to kickstart his career.
Brennan was hand-picked by former coach Ed Orgeron to take over for Joe Burrow, and he did just fine during the first month of the 2020 season. He threw for 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns in the first three games, while only tossing three interceptions. He tore abdominal muscles and ligaments in the middle of the third game of the season vs. Missouri, and his season ended prior to Week 4. He led the Tigers in passing in 2020 despite only playing in those first three games.
Brennan entered last offseason battling with Max Johnson, but a shoulder injury ended that battle before fall camp. Johnson transferred, which might have made it enticing for Brennan to come back, but he entered the transfer portal in November prior to Kelly luring him back to Baton Rouge.
His ability to stretch the field and find receivers downfield makes him a big-time weapon. But, if Kelly is trying to fit his offense around his quarterback, the offensive line will play a big part of it. Cam Wire is the only returning lineman with significant starting experience, which could leave Kelly's quarterback running for his life. Brennan has a grand total of -1 career rushing yards since the start of the 2017 season, so the offensive line will likely have to come together in order for Brennan to have a legit shot.
Nussmeier might be considered the third wheel in this race, but don't count the redshirt freshman out. He got four games of experience last season, including against then-No. 21 Arkansas when he went 18 of 31 for 179 yards and a touchdown. He, like Brennan, isn't exactly a threat on the ground, which will certainly leave a void in his resume.
With that said, Kelly is clearly a fan of Nussmeier's upside.
"He's got 'fit in into a phone booth' throws as well as anybody I've been around," Kelly said, via 247Sports. "He's got the makeup of a great quarterback. But there's been this development, technically, that has been, I think, from my perspective, nice to see as we've gone through the spring. And yeah, he's doing a really nice job."
That quote suggests that Kelly thinks Nussmeier has what it takes to win the job in fall camp despite his relative inexperience. Spring practice provided more of a rough draft of the offense, and Nussmeier was able to impress Kelly in a big way during those 15 outings.
Who has the edge?
Daniels has to be considered the front-runner heading into fall camp. He was targeted by Kelly, has all of the attributes that Kelly has typically valued in a quarterback and is the most experienced of the trio. LSU has big questions along the offensive line, so having somebody who isn't a statue taking snaps will, at the very least, minimize the impact if Kelly can't stabilize things the trenches.
With that said, don't count out the other candidates. I'd give Nussmeier the edge out of the other two players because of his upside and the fact that his career doesn't suggest that he is as much of an injury risk as Brennan. Kelly has to have consistency under center because a game of musical quarterbacks won't serve anybody well.
Whatever happens, the LSU quarterback battle will be one of the most dominant storylines to follow this fall.