Waiting your turn now a lost concept in college football
As has become the norm at LSU in recent years, the football team lost yet another quarterback to transfer this week. And not just one, but two this time in junior Justin McMillan and redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse.
So when you consider the fact the Tiger football program has lost 15 of its last 20 signed quarterbacks to either transfer or dismissal (with a rare exception being 5-star QB Russell Shepard who changed positions to wide receiver), it is an alarming departure rate. And thus, why I pose the question:
“What ever happened to quarterbacks waiting their turn in college football?”
Across the country in recent years, we’ve seen both high-profile and low-profile quarterbacks leaving the teams they inked with on signing day. Jacob Eason at Georgia ran off to Washington. Ole Miss’ Shea Patterson is now a Michigan Wolverine. We will likely hear of Alabama’s Jalen Hurts moving on very soon.
More and more often it seems kids are bailing on their schools in hopes of greener pastures elsewhere. I get that everyone wants to play now, and you’re not always going to win the starting job. But isn’t that what competition is all about? When you don’t win the job the first go-round, shouldn’t you work even harder the next time around? The days of waiting your turn in college football are seemingly dead.
But it hasn’t always been this way. Just go back a little over a decade in college football, and you’ll find great examples of guys who bided their time until opportunity knocked.
One of the best examples at LSU was Matt Flynn, who did not become a full-time starter until his senior season, taking a backseat to veterans Matt Mauck, Marcus Randall and eventual #1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell. The wait paid off for Flynn, who threw for 2,400 yards with 21 touchdowns as a senior, helping lead LSU to a BCS National Championship title.
Former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez spent a couple of years backing up Shreveport native John David Booty, before finally earning the full-time starting gig his junior season. That year, Sanchez threw for 3,200 yards and 34 touchdowns, and parlayed his performance into becoming the 5th overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Blaine Gabbert was a major college recruit, rated as a five-star talent and had offers from dozens of schools. The Missouri Tigers had an entrenched starter by the name of Chase Daniel, who was setting the Big 12 on fire with his big arm. That didn’t scare off Gabbert who began as a third-string guy before eventually earning the starting gig a few years later. That led to him being the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft.
There’s even the unusual case of Blake Sims at Alabama, who spent the first few years of his college career as a backup running back, before converting to quarterback his senior season and becoming the starter. That year, Sims threw for 3,500 yards with 28 touchdowns, leading Alabama to a playoff appearance.
More recently, one could look to Clemson’s Kelly Bryant, who spent his first few seasons riding shotgun to dynamic playmaker Deshaun Watson. Last season, Bryant became the starter and is now poised to lead what should be a playoff contending Clemson team as a senior.
According to a recent story from Fox Sports, of the top quarterbacks that signed from 2011-14, 100 of the 200 quarterbacks transferred from their original school. LSU isn’t alone in this transfer exodus.
But what does stand out is the fact many of the ex-LSU signal callers did not go on to better success elsewhere:
Brandon Harris threw one touchdown and eight interceptions in six appearances at North Carolina.
Anthony Jennings had a subpar season at Louisiana-Lafayette, throwing 23 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in his lone season there.
Chris Garrett went on to Northwestern State and then Ole Miss, but his career fizzled out rather quickly.
Stephen Rivers had a cup of coffee at Vanderbilt before finishing at Northwestern State where he threw for 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns.
To the contrary, the grass was not greener.
Perhaps the best chance for success in leaving LSU is Lindsey Scott, Jr, who left the program last August and played last season at East Mississippi Community College, leading them to an 11-1 record and an NJCAA national championship. Scott is now at Missouri, and after Drew Lock leaves for the NFL following this season, he’ll have every chance to earn the starting job at Mizzou in 2019.
What the future holds for Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse is left to be seen. And I’d like to make clear, I fully understand McMillan leaving as a graduating junior, especially with the arrival of Burrow. The Texas native was a redshirt junior who competed and waited for years in Baton Rouge.
As for a guy like Narcisse, who said Wednesday that he wasn’t a fan of Steve Ensminger’s plan to use him in games with special play packages this season as a runner after he couldn’t win the starting job, I wonder from where the fear of biding time and waiting comes.
Otherwise, why not battle it out and wait his turn in 2019 or 2020? Why not get his feet wet on the field with a taste of playing time at LSU, building up to eventually being a starter?
It’s just part of the continued growing trend of impatience in millennial quarterbacks in college. And it’s why the rising number in college transfer quarterbacks will continue to rise.
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Sports Talk Host
A native of Metairie, Chris Gordy hosts “The Chris Gordy Show” out of Houston on the iHeartRadio app. A lifelong Saints fan & passionate LSU fan, Gordy bleeds purple, black and gold. A 2001 graduate of Archbishop Rummel, Gordy longs for the old days of the Catholic League. But he thinks there is still nothing better than some old-fashioned slugfests…