BATON ROUGE - The Danny Etling-Myles Brennan battle for LSU's starting quarterback position rages on as the season opener nears.
"No, it's not over," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said Thursday night when asked if he felt comfortable saying that Etling - the returning senior starter and current leader - would take the first snap in the first game of the season on Sept. 2 against Brigham Young in Houston (8:30 p.m., ESPN).
"We're going to go all the way throughout the scrimmage, and we're going to talk about it, do our thing," Orgeron said, then talked on both sides of the competition.
"Do I think Danny is going to be our starter? Probably," he said. "But it's not over yet. I wouldn't be surprised if something would happen. We're going to keep that open until we're final, and we sit down as a staff and say, 'OK, this is the direction we're going.' Then we're going to let the team know."
Etling started 10 games last year after beating out previous starter Brandon Harris, who has transferred to North Carolina. Brennan is a true freshman from St. Stanislaus High in Long Beach, Mississippi, via New Orleans.
"Danny has practiced with the first team," Orgeron said. "Myles and Lowell Narcisse (true freshman quarterback from St. James) have taken practice snaps with the second team."
Sophomore Justin McMillan of Cedar Hill, Texas, has also taken some snaps with the second team. Redshirt freshman quarterback Lindsey Scott of Zachary transferred this week to East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Mississippi.
LSU was to hold its final full scale scrimmage at 11 a.m. Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
"The scrimmage is going to say a lot," Orgeron said. "After this scrimmage, we're going to start practicing next week with guys in the position that they're going to play in."
In addition to quarterback, there is hot competition for the starting job at the buck linebacker (edge rusher) position between true freshman K'Lavon Chaisson of Houston, Texas, and redshirt freshman Ray Thornton of Killeen, Texas, for the spot manned by Arden Key of Atlanta, Georgia, last season. Redshirt freshman Andre Anthony of New Orleans was in the running before a recent injury.
"Those guys are fighting hard," Orgeron said. "It's either going to be Ray or K'Lavon. Andre's still gimpy. He's fallen behind. He's been hurt for about a week now. If K'Lavon's got to start, I got no problem. Eventually, he's going to play somewhere."
Orgeron signed Chaisson - the No. 6 weak side defensive end in the nation last year - away from Texas last February.
"Eventually, he's going to start somewhere," he said. "He's going to play somewhere."
Key, who set the LSU record for sacks last season as a sophomore with 12, is practicing, but avoiding full contact because of a shoulder injury that may keep him out of the opener, Orgeron said.
"I do not expect him, but nothing that dude does surprises me," he said. "He's going to see his doctor next week, and we should know pretty soon. He's ahead of schedule. He's doing some things. Today, man he was taking on blocks. He's not hitting. He's going through some walk-through stuff. He's had the pads on. I've got to take him out of drills. He wants to go. He's stepping through stuff, using his hands, learning his keys, doing some pass rush moves. He runs around, but he's not taking any contact. I just don't know when he's going to be ready."
There is also fierce competition at free safety between true freshman Grant Delpit of Houston and senior Ed Paris of Arlington, Texas, at the fifth defensive back, or nickel slot, between true freshman Kary Vincent Jr. of Port Arthur, Texas, and sophomore Xavier Lewis of LaPlace, and at right guard between redshirt freshman Lloyd Cushenberry III of Geismar and true freshman Ed Ingram of Desoto, Texas.
"Lloyd and Ed both took snaps at starting right guard today," Orgeron said. "I would think Lloyd would have an edge up a little bit right now just because he's been with us since spring. But I wouldn't say for that sure."
Starters K.J. Malone at left tackle, William Clapp at center and Toby Weathersby at right tackle have all returned to practice in recent weeks, but their absence gave valuable experience to Ingram and fellow true freshmen Austin Deculus and Saahdiq Charles at tackle.
"If Austin, Saahdiq and Ed Ingram start, I'll have no problem," Orgeron said. "None. Zero. Not from what I've seen in practice now. Obviously, they'll make mistakes, but they're physical, they're athletic, they're smart, they're well coached by Jeff Grimes. If one of those guys has to go in the game, we feel good. It's a great freshmen class."
Other true freshmen competing for backup spots behind inside linebackers Donnie Alexander and Devin White and perhaps pushing them are more true freshmen - Tyler Taylor of Buford, Georgia, Jacob Phillips of Nashville, Tennessee, and Patrick Queen of Livonia.
"There's a battle between Tyler Taylor, Jacob Phillips and Patrick Queen," Orgeron said. "Who's going to be in the rotation right there? Who's going to play? Who's the second team linebackers? Who's three? They're going to play. They're going to play special teams. They're going to play all over the place."
Another true freshman starter at kick returner could be true freshman tailback Clyde "The Glide" Edwards-Helaire, Orgeron said.
"He's going to play," he said.
Edward-Helaire returned to practice Thursday after missing several days following a hard hit.
"He was running very well again today," Orgeron said. "He was returning kicks for us."
Another true freshman making some noise is defensive lineman Neil Farrell Jr. of Mobile, Alabama. He is running No. 2 at left end behind veterans Christian LaCouture and Frank Herron.
"Tough, tough, tough," Orgeron said. "Competitive. Won't back down from anything. Big and strong, came in shape. Loves contact. The physicality of camp has not been too much of an adjustment for him like it has for some other guys. He's going to be an excellent player for us."
IMPROVING RECEIVERS: LSU's wide receiver group after returning senior starter D.J. Chark have finally made some progress.
"I think our receivers are probably our most improved group on the team right now besides the young offensive linemen," Orgeron said. "Russell Gage (senior from Baton Rouge), Derrick Dillon (sophomore from Franklinton) continue to have good camps. Drake Davis (sophomore from Baton Rouge) stepped up. JaCoby Stevens (freshman from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who switched from safety) has been learning his plays. Has strong hands. Made several catches on Tuesday. Mannie Netherly (freshman from Crosby, Texas) had a big touchdown catch Saturday, had another long ball again on Tuesday, making a lot of progress. Justin Jefferson (freshman from Destrehan) continues to look good."
TYLER SHELVIN UPDATE: True freshman defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin of Notre Dame High in Crowley and Northside in Lafayette remains sidelined as the NCAA Clearinghouse reviews his high school transcripts.
"It's still in progress," Orgeron said. "It's being reviewed. It's taking a little longer than we thought. Still in the process."
Asked if Shelvin, a five star prospect by Rivals.com who was ranked as the No. 3 defensive tackle and 34th overall prospect in the country, would be practicing by the opening of the season, Orgeron said, "I think so."
INJURIES: Sophomore wide receiver Dee Anderson of DeSoto, Texas, "has been limited with an injury," Orgeron said. ... Reserve sophomore tailback Lanard Fournette of New Orleans remains sidelined with a minor injury as does freshman wide receiver Racey McMath of New Orleans.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: LSU coach Ed Orgeron on 76-year-old defensive line coach Pete Jenkins:
"When we were young, everybody used to try to get a copy of his drill tape. He wouldn't let it loose. So, if anybody got a copy of it, we'd all pirate it, copy it and not tell him. But he's got so many tapes now, it's unbelievable."’
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