Battle brewing: Johnson still the starter, but Nusmeier will see increased snaps

LSU has a situation developing at quarterback.

Probably too soon to upgrade it to a Quarterback Controversy.

Sophomore Max Johnson is still the starter and head coach Ed Orgeron doesn’t expect that to change before Saturday night’s home game with Arkansas.

But suddenly he faces real competition from true freshman Garrett Nussmeier.

Orgeron said Monday that the two will split reps in practice this week, and Nussmeier will at least get early and meaningful snaps against the Razorbacks.

“If Max plays better than Garrett, he’s going to be the starter,” Orgeron said. “If Garrett plays better than Max, he’s going to be the starter.”

That’s a 180-degree turn from the word just a week ago when Orgeron said LSU wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize Nussmeier’s redshirt year, which playing in more than one more game would negate.

That changed after both Nussmeier and his father, former NFL quarterback and current Dallas Cowboys assistant coach Doug Nussmeier, spoke to Orgeron Sunday following the Tigers 20-13 loss to Alabama the previous night.

“It looks like right now he may not redshirt,” Orgeron said, “But that’s his choice, and that’s what he wants to do.”

Coaches normally leave it to a player (and his family) whether to redshirt.

Nussmeier, who was born in Lake Charles and grew up wherever his father’s playing and coaching career took him, showed up in Orgeron’s office Sunday and was “adamant” that he wanted to play and wasn’t worried about losing year of eligibility.

Doug Nussmeier called offensive coordinator Jake Peetz and echoed his son’s thoughts.

“He wants to play so he will play against Arkansas and the guy that ends up playing the best is going to play the most,” Orgeron said.

“We’ll let Max start, but we’ll put in Garrett. Garrett’s going to get some plays — I already talked to him. And we’re going to let the best man win.”

Nussmeier, known for a strong arm, has played only in mop-up duty thus far, completing 11 of 26 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown.

Johnson, who took over the starting job for the final two games last season, this year is 178 for 296 with 22 touchdown passes and six interceptions.

He threw two touchdown passes in the loss to Alabama, but twice missed with high throws on fourth-down gambles, including one from the 8-yard line that could have given LSU the lead in the fourth quarter.

Both were intended for tight end Jack Bech.

“Jack was open, the ball was high,” Orgeron said. “True, he had pressure on him but Jack would have caught it. I thought it was a good (play) call, the ball was too high.”

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