BATON ROUGE – That’s it. LSU football coach Les Miles and his staff are barred from recruiting high school quarterbacks.
Should Danny Etling continue up a path he has started upon very well through seven quarters as LSU’s quarterback, it will mean that the only good quarterbacks Miles has had in his 12 seasons as LSU's coach here were those he did not sign out of high school. The only good ones he has had were those signed by others out of high school and those coached by others early in their college careers before playing for him.
JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn were signed out of high school and first coached in college by offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher at LSU before Miles inherited them from former head coach Nick Saban in 2005 when each were redshirt sophomores. The next good one was Zach Mettenberger, who was in Georgia’s program under Mark Richt for a redshirt season in 2009 before playing at Butler Community College in Kansas in 2010 and coming to LSU in 2011 as an already well developed sophomore.
The only exception is Miles’ signee Jarrett Lee, but it took him five years before he finally got good in 2011. Only Miles didn’t notice and inexplicably benched him for the always struggling Jordan Jefferson because Jefferson ran the ball well in a defense-dominated, 9-6 overtime win at Alabama.
Now, it’s Etling, who started seven games as a true freshman at Purdue in 2013 and started another five in 2014 before transferring to LSU, courtesy of fellow Terre Haute (Indiana) South Viga High alum/offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in 2015. He sat out last season per the NCAA transfer rule.
Perhaps, Russell, Flynn and Mettenberger were so far along in their development pre-Miles that Miles and whatever offensive coordinator he may have had at the time couldn’t mess them up in time. Maybe Miles and Cameron messed Brandon Harris up. It’s a safer bet that the quarterback camps Harris went to may have hurt him, too. Harris and his various coaches and camp counselors may have also got so enamored with Harris’ arm strength so as not to work enough on the finer and shorter parts of his passing game. At the moment, Harris is like a promising, young pitcher with a 95 mph fastball who keeps throwing it over the backstop.
Perhaps Etling is another quarterback secure in his proven and previously learned abilities that he will be safe from the Miles-Cameron effect.
Or perhaps it’s not Miles and Cameron, and it wasn’t Miles and previous offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa or Miles and previous offensive coordinator Gary Crowton. Perhaps, Miles, and to a lesser extent his offensive coordinators, do not know how to pick the right high school quarterbacks to recruit in the first place. Remember, Miles thought Russell Shepard could play quarterback back when LSU signed him in 2009. He never played the position at LSU, and at the time the guys playing it were awful – Jefferson and Lee. Soon after seeing Shepard practice, Miles and company decided Shepard would not play quarterback for them. Why did they not arrive at this Eureka moment before signing him?
The same could be said of Jefferson. He and Shepard were great in high school, but there were those who did not believe their game would translate well into college. Miles was not one of those. Miles may have not realized Jefferson couldn’t play until the 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS national championship game on January 9, 2012.
Miles and Cameron were not the only major college coaches who thought Harris could play. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn wanted him as did others. Who knows? Maybe Harris will still make it somewhere. Or maybe he’ll get another shot at LSU.
The way it looks now, though, Miles was wrong on Anthony Jennings – now at Louisiana-Lafayette – and on Harris – now No. 2 – in addition to Lee for the most part and Jefferson.
Too bad Etling was Purdue bound by December of 2012 just as Cameron was getting fired from the Baltimore Ravens. Cameron could have dropped by his old high school and brought Etling with him to LSU. He could have followed Mettenberger nicely in 2014 as a redshirt freshman and be a junior three-year starter today.
The reason Etling left Purdue after two seasons – other than the 42 sacks in just 13 games – was because he was and is a pure drop back quarterback, and Purdue runs a spread. Now, Etling is home in a pro set. And hopefully, Miles will not mess it up. Because Miles has this funny duplicity about quarterbacks. Everything about him says marry a pure drop back quarterback, but he likes to fool around on the side with dual action ones. Only he doesn't know how to pick one who can throw accurately.
Now, in time, Miles can return to high schools to resume his LSU career-long search for his first high school quarterback signee ever to succeed at LSU, but only if he agrees to one thing.
He can only recruit drop back quarterbacks out of high school. Or – since most high schools run the spread and tend to have dual action quarterbacks – he can only recruit dual action quarterbacks who can throw accurately and have not been to George Whitfield’s quarterback camp.
(© 2016 WWL)