BATON ROUGE - LSU quarterback Danny Etling has emerged from yet another press conference as the Tigers' starting quarterback.
"Danny has practiced with the first team. Nobody has beaten him out yet," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said Monday morning on the Southeastern Conference spring teleconference.
Etling, who will be a senior in 2017 after starting the last 10 games of the 2016 season and playing very well in the last two, was never threatened during spring drills, though he did practice and play with a back injury that he had a minor procedure for after the spring game.
Orgeron, though, at times has fueled talk and stories that there is competition from 2017 signee Lowell Narcisse, who has a strong arm but threw erratically in the spring game, and Justin McMillan, who will be a sophomore in 2017 but threw one pass last season. And Narcisse's career at St. James High was plagued with knee injuries. Narcisse, McMillan and Lindsey Scott, a 2016 signee, did not have great springs, whereas Etling was clearly the most consistent.
"Guys are very close," Orgeron insisted. "We still haven't seen Myles Brennan."
Brennan will join the team this summer, but he is not a top 10 prospect and is thin at 6-foot-3 and 180. He signed with LSU as the No. 12 pro style quarterback in the nation out of St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and No. 212 nationally.
Orgeron was asked if Etling, a transfer who started parts of two seasons at Purdue, needs to be more of a difference maker or just be better this season.
"Yeah, a game manager," Orgeron said.
Etling completed 20 of 28 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns in LSU's 54-39 win at No. 22 Texas A&M to close the 2016 regular season. It was just the second 300-yard passing game by an LSU quarterback in a win over a SEC team since Matt Flynn threw for 353 in a 41-34 win at No. 17 Alabama on Nov. 3, 2007. Zach Mettenberger threw for 340 in a 59-26 win at Mississippi State in 2013. Etling followed that game by completing 16 of 29 for 217 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers' 29-9 win over No. 13 Louisville in the Citrus Bowl.
"Danny's a guy that can go into the game, manage the game, make the short throws, make the checks, be a leader out there, have great pocket awareness," Orgeron said. "Those are the things that we want him to do. And he's also very good at throwing the deep ball. I think when he's healthy, he's going to be hard to beat."
Orgeron said that he wanted new offensive coordinator Matt Canada to get a good look at all the quarterbacks this spring.
"First of all, the reason we opened it (quarterback competition) up is we have a new offense," Orgeron said. "And I wanted to give a pro style quarterback (Etling) a chance, a dual threat quarterback (Narcisse) a chance to give Matt a chance to see what these guys can do, and to give Matt an open lane to run the plays that he wants to do and feel free to have success. So we opened it up."
Orgeron also discussed his hiring of Canada from Pittsburgh after the 2016 season. Canada's offense finished 10th in the nation in scoring with 40.9 points a game, including a 43-42 win over eventual national champion Clemson, and Orgeron liked how he had developed strong passing attacks with a variety of quarterbacks over the years.
"His still being able to adjust to the different skill sets of the quarterback that's on the roster already," Orgeron said. "He wasn't tied to a pro style offense. He wasn't tied to a dual threat quarterback. Can do both, which we have both on our team. So I thought that made him a great candidate, and then his interview was excellent. Averaging 40 points at Pitt and beating Clemson like he did was very impressive. But the biggest thing I liked about Matt is he preached about team. One team, one heartbeat, the same thing that we do, so very great candidate, and I think he's going to be dynamic for the Tigers."
Canada will speak Monday night in Baton Rouge as part of LSU's spring speaking tour.
Orgeron said he grew closer to LSU's players during spring practice last month.
"They know what to expect," he said. "Every day those guys came to work happy. They excited. There's a lot of energy in the room. We had some great meetings. We had a great spring game. There's a lot of excitement with our program right now. I think our guys are excited that I am the coach. I'm excited to be their coach. We have full support from the administration. We have full support from the state of Louisiana. Things are very good in Baton Rouge right now."
Glenn Guilbeau covers LSU sports for the USA Today Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter at @LSUBeatTweet.
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