If there was ever a knock on the LSU program during head coach Les Miles' tenure it would be the play under center. Year after year despite producing NFL-quality wide receivers, the Tigers' passing game has left a lot to be desired.
On Monday LSU added some future game experience under center with the announced addition of former Purdue starting quarterback Danny Etling.
Etling (6-2, 216) has a long way to go before being a gridiron savior in Baton Rouge, but he brings two years of starting experience to the Tigers’ roster. As a 4-star quarterback out of South Vigo High School in Terre Haute, Ind., he started the final seven games for the Boilermakers in 2013, passing for 1,690 yards with 10 touchdowns as a freshman.
Trouble hit for Etling in 2014 when Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell opted for a change. Etling was eventually beat out by fellow sophomore Austin Appleby for the starting quarterback job. Appleby threw for 1,449 yards with 10 touchdowns against 11 picks. Etling passed for 800 yards, connecting on six touchdown passes against five interceptions. Etling completed 55 percent of his passes while Appleby completed 53 percent.
Appleby proved to be more of a dual-threat, as the 6-5, 229-pounder rushed for 198 yards with five touchdowns and was sacked 12 times. In 2013 Etling was sacked 31 times to go with his 11 last season in 100 fewer drop backs than Appleby.
Collecting wins in West Lafayette has been difficult under Hazell. The Boilermakers posted win-loss records of 1-11 in 2013 and 3-9 in '14.
In Baton Rouge, LSU’s situation under center entering this season is tenuous after last week’s announced arrest of 2014 starting quarterback Anthony Jennings. Jennings along with two other LSU players were arrested for unlawful entry into a fellow classmate’s apartment, retrieving goods that were allegedly stolen from Jennings days prior. After the incident Miles suspended Jennings indefinitely for his role in the altercation.
If Jennings is not reinstated for the fall, LSU is expected to turn to true sophomore Brandon Harris with Justin McMillan serving as the backup quarterback. Due to NCAA transfer rules Etling will have to sit out this season, but will have two years of eligibility remaining starting in 2016.
As a sophomore Jennings had an up-and-down 2014 season, passing for 1,611 yards with 11 scores against seven picks. The former Marietta, Ga., high school star completed just 48.9 percent of his passes but managed to scramble for 292 yards despite taking 22 sacks.
As the LSU roster and recruiting efforts currently stand, a quarterback battle will take place during fall camp in 2016 with Jennings, Harris, McMillan, and Etling dueling for a starting position plus the potential addition of 4-star Class of 2016 Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks.
Etling reportedly also visited Arkansas as a potential landing spot before making the decision to enroll at LSU in the fall.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.