Dig Baton Rouge

Chasing Harris: Danny Etling could push Harris for starting spot in 2016

Let me just start out this column by admitting that I have no life and that I watch literally 10-12 hours of college football every single Saturday of the season.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, I can admit my next dirty little secret, which is the fact that I’m actually a closet fan of Purdue.

Not sure why, but I’ve always followed the Boilermakers with a pretty close eye. I’m a sucker for those pre-noon Big Ten conference kickoffs, and Purdue plays at that time often because of their inability to consistently contend for championships.

With that said, I can say with 100 percent honesty that I have seen LSU quarterback Danny Etling play before – multiple times, actually.

As for a scouting report? It’s short and sweet: the kid can spin it a little.

If Brandon Harris hasn’t gotten better in the offseason, there is actually a legitimate chance that the Tigers will have a new starting quarterback next fall.

Etling is not a quarterback with the superstar-caliber ceiling of Harris, but I think that his floor may actually be higher than that of the LSU incumbent. In my eyes, Etling is actually a little bit more consistent, which honestly, might be what the star-studded LSU offense needs next fall from that position.

At Purdue, Etling was always pretty steady – even when playing with a pitiful supporting cast. As a true freshman in 2013, Etling completed 149-of-267 passes for 1,690 yards, 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions for the Boilermakers, who finished the year with one win. A year later, he completed 89-of-162 passes for 800 yards, 6 touchdowns and 5 picks, then was benched for the second half of the season.

The thing most noticeable when looking at the splits is that there is some legitimate potential in Etling’s game. When given the time to actually go through his progressions and read the defense, he’s capable of having success. In 2013, he had a 485-yard, four touchdown game on the road against Indiana.

In 2014, he completed 27 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns at Notre Dame.

Sure, there’s some bad games mixed in there, but is that all Etling’s fault or is it more on the fact that his offensive line stunk, the weapons around him were porous and he was being sacked four to five times a game?

With LSU, Etling would have a dominant running game, five-star receivers to his left and right, and an offensive line loaded with future NFL players.

The opposing defenses he’ll face are better, but Etling has seen many NFL defensive backs in the Big Ten, so he’ll know how to handle the opposition – at least in theory.

It’s not inconceivable to envision a scenario where Etling would play, and be the steady, game manager that the Tigers have lacked since the days of Matt Flynn.

Of course, Harris is the incumbent, which likely means that he has to stumble, be injured or be grossly outplayed in summer camp to lose his spot.

But from what I saw out of Harris in the back-end of 2015, I’m not ruling out the idea that Etling may beat him out.

And if he does, I’m OK with that.

I’ve seen the kid play, and I’m comfortable with how his skills may translate to the LSU offense’s strengths.

Despite popular belief, Etling just may be the most qualified and best man for the job.

Photo courtesy of LSU Sports Information.


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