Etling will suffice at QB, for now

Some years ago — I guess it was 2008 — Les Miles was speaking privately with a few of us reporters on the subject of whatever LSU’s latest frustration at the quarterback position was.

He didn’t seem concerned, particularly about the future.

“I don’t think our quarterback of the future is on campus yet,” he said with that trademark little wink of his.

The NCAA’s recruiting rules forbade him from mentioning any names, but he didn’t have to.

We knew he was talking about Russell Shepard, who turned out to be a fine young man and an excellent athlete, good enough now to be starting his fifth year in the NFL this season as a Carolina Panthers receiver.

But he never threw a single pass for LSU — or for anybody else, for that matter.

What in the world ever made the LSU coaches think he was a quarterback?

Maybe that’s when people starting believing in the Curse of Ryan Perrilloux, who had plenty of talent — he was MVP of the 2007 SEC championship game, filling in for injured Matt Flynn — but off-the-field issues eventually forced Miles to boot him from the team.

With the brief two-year respite under Zach Mettenberger (2012-13), the all-important position has been dragging down otherwise talented Tigers teams ever since.

It’s probably been more of an indictment of the recruiting than the on-field coaching after those quarterbacks got to Tiger Stadium.

Mettenberger was a transfer from Georgia who fell into the Tigers’ lap.

This week, when redshirt freshman Lindsey Scott Jr., transferred to East Mississippi Community College, he became the seventh quarterback this decade to leave LSU. Three of them started at some point for the Tigers. Two others who LSU signed never ended up on campus — Zach Lee in 2010 chose pro baseball and Jeremy Liggins in 2012 ended up at Ole Miss. The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Liggins is a rookie defensive tackle with the Seattle Seahawks.

Scott was the second this offseason, joining former starter Brandon Harris, who is off to North Carolina.

It’s generally used as an mark against the LSU (mostly Miles) offenses. But quarterbacks are going to transfer as soon as lack of a starting job becomes inevitable. A running back or receiver can still count on playing time. Not so at quarterback.

Maybe their development was stymied with the Tigers.

But fleeing Miles’ staid old offense hasn’t been the answer.

Given new life, and coaching, none of the previous transfers really lit it up when the chains were lifted at their new addresses. Harris will be trying to defy the odds this year at North Carolina.

Still, it’s hard to blame Scott for leaving. He kind of did LSU a favor just in signing with the 2016 class.

Like Shepard, he is an excellent athlete — the 2015 Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year while at Zachary High — but not many 5-10 guys start at QB in the SEC.

He’d originally committed to Syracuse, but the Tigers got on him late, only after some late quarterback defections in the recruiting class left them scrambling.

Signing a guy with plenty of local high school headlines helped save face on national signing day.

But it was always a stretch to think of him a difference-maker at quarterback.

Those kind of recruiting decisions, as much as coaching, have been holding the position back. 

There may be an end in sight.

Following LSU’s third scrimmage Saturday, head coach Ed Orgeron was still playing coy about the quarterback situation.

The staff, he said, would name a starter this week.

I’ll save you the suspense.

It will be a short coaches meeting.

Danny Etling is going to be the Tigers’ starting quarterback to open the season and presumably for the duration.

If he’d started the season last year from the beginning — he rescued Harris in the second game and took over as the starter in the third — Miles might still be at LSU.

There was a noticeable difference. 

One of the final marks against the Miles regime was that it evaluated Harris and Etling all spring and summer and somehow decided Harris was the answer.

Simply dumbfounding.

Etling is probably not an All-SEC quarterback.

But he’s an SEC-caliber quarterback, and that’s a big upgrade from recent years.

His mostly OK-to-good performances last year were a refreshing change.

With LSU and the quarterback position, you take what you can get.

But Etling will be fine … or OK, if you prefer.

Not sure what all the drama is about, but maybe it’s refreshing for the future that Orgeron keeps a straight face when players like incoming freshmen Myles Brennan and Lowell Narcisse, particularly Brennan, are making the decision worthy of a coaches meeting.

l

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at

shobbs@americanpress.com

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