Although Orgeron said the fifth-year senior "has had an excellent offseason," he still wants Etling to earn the job over inexperienced reserves Justin McMillan, Lindsey Scott and early enrollee Lowell Narcisse.
"Danny's the leader clearly right now and will probably end up being the leader. We don't know that," said Orgeron, whose team opens spring practice Saturday. "But I wanted to make it open for Justin, for Lindsey, for Lowell, for Myles [Brennan, a 2017 signee who will arrive at LSU in June]. That's what we told them when we recruited them and we wanted to give them a chance."
Etling, a transfer from Purdue, passed the struggling Brandon Harris on the depth chart in Week 2 last season, leading the Tigers to a 7-3 record as a starter by completing 59.5 percent of his passes for 2,123 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
When Harris announced plans to transfer this offseason, that left redshirt sophomore McMillan as the Tigers' only backup with any game experience. McMillan appeared in one game last season, completing his only pass attempt in mop-up duty against FCS opponent Jacksonville State. Scott redshirted last season and quarterbacked the Tigers' scout team, while Narcisse and Brennan were both coveted prospects in LSU's 2017 signing class.
Orgeron directed LSU's scout team in the last two seasons before replacing Les Miles as head coach after four games last fall. It was in Orgeron's previous role that both Etling -- who sat out the 2015 season after transferring -- and Scott proved to to their new head coach that they could handle a starting role.
"Before I became head coach, I ran the scout team and Lindsey was my quarterback," Orgeron said. "The year before that, our quarterback was Danny Etling. So I saw that out of Danny. I see the same things out of Lindsey. I think Lindsey's tremendous. He's very smart, he can run the ball, he's strong, throws the ball well. He's going to be right up there in the competition. He is a good quarterback."
While Narcisse is already on campus, he is still recovering from a torn left ACL suffered before his senior season of high school. He tore his right ACL the previous year.
"Lowell Narcisse has come in here; he's rehabbing his knee," Orgeron said. "He's looking good. He's working hard out there. He's lost a little weight, enjoying being an LSU Tiger."
All of the quarterbacks will be adapting to a new position coach and offensive coordinator this year after Orgeron hired 2016 Broyles Award finalist Matt Canada this offseason. Canada has frequently made use of dual-threat quarterbacks in his previous stops, though he insists he will tailor his system to his starter's attributes.
Orgeron reiterated that philosophy Tuesday, noting that Canada's goal will be to diversify LSU's run-heavy offense while still relying on Heisman candidate Derrius Guice's running ability.
"Matt's going to run his offense, but he's going to be able to adapt to the type of quarterback that we have," Orgeron said. "He's proven that throughout the years, and we're still going to run the football here with Derrius Guice and our running backs, but we're going to open up the offense, throw it down the field, multiple shifts and formations. That's what he's known for."