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Thursday Three-and-Out: Etling Could be the Answer at Quarterback for LSU

The statement surfaces prior to the beginning of every college football season.

“If LSU had a quarterback….”

Earlier this week, Les Miles and the Tigers got one.

When former Purdue starting quarterback Danny Etling decided he would finish his collegiate career in Baton Rouge, LSU’s depth and talent at the position immediately improved.

The 12-game starter for the Boilermakers won’t be able to make an instant impact for the Tigers as he will sit for the 2015 per NCAA transfer guidelines.

During his time in West Lafayette, Etling threw for 2,490 yards and 16 touchdowns while tossing 12 interceptions. Though he won’t be a Heisman front-runner anytime soon, Etling’s experience and ability could give the Tigers exactly what they need to be a threat to win the SEC and add another national title to Les Miles’ resume in the next few years.

This week’s three-and-out for why LSU could be a dominant SEC power with Etling in uniform:

He’s a pocket passer, something LSU hasn’t had in some time – Like any gunslinger, Etling’s first instinct is to find the open target, even when under pressure. He’s not likely to tuck the ball and run unless he finds himself in a tough situation. That’s something that’s been absent in Baton Rouge.

Though Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris aren’t specifically run-first quarterbacks, their athleticism allows their legs to be a factor every Saturday. Sometimes that has means hanging on to the football too long and ending up with incomplete passes or sacks. Their pocket presence has been suspect which has led to the ongoing turmoil at that position.

September 27, 2014: Purdue Boilermakers quarterback Danny Etling (5) passes downfield as he gets pressure from behind during a football game between the Purdue Boilermakers and Iowa Hawkeyes at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, IN.

Elton could give the Tigers more consistency in the passing game.

After two seasons at Purdue, Etling has shown he can make some big time throws and is willing to stay in the pocket even under pressure. He has some areas for improvement for sure, but his mechanics and awareness are a good foundation for LSU to build on.

Etling is a great addition to a run-first offense – As mentioned earlier, the former four-star recruit is going to be a Heisman winner or a conference MVP anytime soon, but rather an accurate and consistent passer who can help LSU mix up the offense.

Les Miles and the Tigers love to run the football as has been showcased nearly every season under his watch. In 2014, the Tigers ranked 25th in the ground game, piling up nearly 225 yards per contest. Through the air, LSU finished 116th in the country with only 162 yards per game.

The relevance of the running game isn’t going anywhere but an improvement in the passing game is important if LSU wants to compete for SEC titles and get back to the national title hunt. A dominant run game typically opens up passing lanes and a quarterback of Etling’s caliber could easily take advantage of some wide-open targets if given the opportunity.

He has yet to reach his full potential – Most people would look at Etling’s numbers and dismiss him as a solution to LSU’s quarterback woes. 16 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. A 55 percent completion rate. Only two wins as a starting quarterback.

But remember, Etling earned the starting job midway through his freshman season during a rebuilding process with the Boilermakers. A lousy offensive line, an ineffective run game, bad defense and a below average receiving corps can really hinder a quarterbacks ability to improve.

With the big bodied lineman, an established run game and a defense that can get him the ball in good field position, Etling has every opportunity to be successful with the Tigers after he completes his year of ineligibility and fights for the starting spot as a junior in 2016.

The four-star recruit wasn’t overrated coming out of high school but was rather put in a situation that didn’t fit his playing style and allow him to grow.

He’ll have that chance at LSU with the opportunity to win a championship, as well.

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