BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow didn’t need long to convince new teammates at LSU that he had no sense of entitlement and was prepared to work.
On Monday, Burrow was named the starting quarterback for the 25th-ranked Tigers’ season opener against No. 8 Miami in Dallas on Sunday night. LSU coach Ed Orgeron described competition between Burrow and sophomore Myles Brennan as “tight,” and added that he would not hesitate to change QBs should the starter falter.
Still, the decision to place the 6-foot-4 Burrow atop the QB depth chart in Week 1 came as little surprise to senior tight end Foster Moreau, who recalled some of the striking first impressions Burrow made as fall camp began in early August.
Burrow, Moreau recalled, chose to perform the conditioning test with veterans instead of with freshmen and other new arrivals.
“He won almost every sprint,” Moreau said. “He’s an exceptional, exceptional quarterback. He’s a very hard worker. You could tell that he’s been raised the right way and he has the right mindset.”
Burrow graduated from Ohio State in three years with a degree in consumer and family financial services. He has two years of eligibility remaining after appearing in 10 games in a backup role during the past two seasons.
“He just looks ready to play,” Moreau said. “Really smart guy. He’s kind of worked his way into our hearts. He’s grinded. … He’s put in the hard time. He’s done a great job of earning our trust and the respect of the team.
“He’s done a great job for us and I can’t wait to see what we do.”
Burrow has more major college playing experience than Brennan, but that’s not saying much. The 6-foot-5 Brennan played only sparingly last season behind then-senior Danny Etling.
Burrow attempted 39 passes for the Buckeyes, completing 29 for 287 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 53 yards and one TD.
“He was at Ohio State, another major school … so I feel like for him it won’t be a lot of pressure coming into LSU and trying to win games for us, just because he’s a great leader. He’s an older guy,” receiver Jonathan Giles said. “He has the right mindset to lead the team.”
At Ohio State, Burrow backed up J.T. Barrett, who is now on the New Orleans Saints’ training camp roster.
“He’s a good dude, first and foremost. He cares about the team. He’s going to grind each and every day,” Barrett said after a recent Saints practice. “A lot of people look at the characteristics of arm strength, speed or accuracy, all that other stuff. But first and foremost, you’ve got to know what you’re doing with the football, putting the offense in good plays, avoiding the bad ones. That’s one of his strengths – and then he also slings the ball.”
Burrow could have remained at Ohio State, but would have had to beat out Dwayne Haskins, who led a comeback victory over Michigan last season after Barrett was hurt during that game. Haskins has since been named the Buckeyes’ 2018 starter.
Orgeron has yet to allow Burrow to speak with reporters since the quarterback joined the program. Brennan also has been shielded from reporters since fall camp started. Neither was available on Monday and the Tigers have no further player availability scheduled until after their first game, when Burrow likely will have to answer for his maiden performance, good or bad.
Orgeron explained that he and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger sought to let the competition for starter play out over the entirety of camp, during which quarterbacks were graded on various aspects of each practice snap.
Coaches allowed the QBs to monitor their grades and progress throughout camp.
As it became apparent that Burrow and Brennan were the clear leaders, The Tigers’ two other scholarship QBs – Lowell Narcisse and Justin McMillan – left the program. McMillan transferred to Tulane and Narcisse went to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
Orgeron said he and Ensminger made their choice based not only on grades, but intangibles such as leadership, work ethic and temperament during adversity.
Burrow “came in here very low-key, competed at every event he could,” Orgeron said. Burrow was “in the film room on his own, studying, in weight room, working hard.
“He made some mistakes, wasn’t perfect – neither was the other quarterback – but the next day he would bounce back,” Orgeron continued. “He showed true leadership and an ability to command the offense.”