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LSU QB battle rolls on, even after Danny Etling's strong scrimmage

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The passing numbers LSU coach Ed Orgeron has read aloud after the Tigers' spring scrimmages haven't always been pretty, but quarterback Danny Etling cautioned against overreacting to them.

Although Etling's stats were much more impressive in LSU’s final scrimmage before spring break -- 13-for-17 for 216 yards and three touchdowns -- the senior starter said his performances have actually been fairly consistent throughout.

"Stats sometimes can lie on how you play," Etling said Tuesday afternoon. "I felt pretty good about every scrimmage I've had, whether it's throwing the ball away or making good decisions with the football. Finally plays were just hitting that day and guys were really working and getting open and we were making a lot of plays in the passing game. So the stats looked better, but really my evaluation of my play was similar."

Orgeron apparently agreed with Etling's assessment of the scrimmage, telling reporters afterward, "What a great day [Etling] had."

The Tigers' coach still has not ended the competition for Etling's job, however.

Orgeron came into spring practice promising that the Tigers would hold an open competition for the starting quarterback job and has insisted throughout that while Etling has held onto the No. 1 position, nobody has "grabbed the bull by the horns" yet.

"We're going to sit down at the end of spring and talk about it as a staff. We're not going to get in a hurry,' Orgeron said. "Obviously Danny has practiced first team most of the time. Nobody has beaten him out yet."

Perhaps the most recent scrimmage was a step in the right direction, though. The Tigers focused heavily on the passing game that day to get it up to speed after running effectively in earlier sessions at Tiger Stadium.

The disparity should hardly surprise those who have followed LSU football in recent years. The running game has been the focus of the Tigers' offense for years, and it will be again this fall with Derrius Guice in the backfield. But among new offensive coordinator Matt Canada's top objectives is to inject some life into a passing game that has floundered over the last three seasons.

Fixing that issue will take more than one productive scrimmage, as nice as that was for Etling and a new-look batch of receivers to experience.

"When you watch the film, there's a lot of good on film, but for me personally, I think the receivers thought so as well, there's a lot of things that we can keep improving on, especially when it comes to the passing game," Etling said. "But I think we're going to keep working on it. Again, I think that's where summer has got to come into effect and we’ve got to challenge ourselves as a quarterback room and receiver group that we're going to keep pushing ourselves."

That includes the ongoing competition to take snaps.

Even if Etling is the frontrunner, the players sitting behind him on the depth chart might be better suited for the quarterback runs that Canada often utilizes when working with mobile quarterbacks.

When dual-threat players such as Justin McMillan, Lindsey Scott and Lowell Narcisse have been in this spring, Canada has already given them a heavy dose of what they could expect from his play-calling in an actual game.

"[Prior to spring break] I made the joke that this is the most quarterback runs I've ever had. He said we haven't even gotten into it yet," McMillan chuckled.

Redshirt sophomore McMillan might be Etling's closest competition right now, ahead of redshirt freshman Scott and early enrollee Narcisse. Freshman Myles Brennan will join the contenders list once he arrives in June.

Interpreting where any of them truly stands is tricky, although they at least know that their coach still believes the bull's horns remain ungrabbed.

"I don't really know what that means, but I think y'all have to probably check in with [Orgeron] on that," McMillan said. "But we’re doing the best we can. He wants us to be as good as we can be. He wants a national championship just as bad as we do, so if he wants the best player to be there, he's going to have the best player."

A consistently good player would be a nice change, even if LSU's quarterbacks are understandably aiming higher than that. Their competition will likely carry on through the summer months and into preseason camp, and they hope by then that their position group will no longer be viewed as the occasional liability it has been for the past few seasons.

"We want to be the strength of the offense and we've got to continue to push ourselves to become that because we're not there yet," Etling said. "So we're going to keep working and working until we can get that goal."