'I'm not going to follow in his footsteps,' says LSU's Myles Brennan of Joe Burrow legacy
BATON ROUGE — New LSU starting quarterback Myles Brennan is likely not going to throw for 5,672 yards and 61 touchdowns this season and win the Heisman Trophy.
The fourth-year junior from Long Beach, Miss., will not play in 15 games. The most could be 13, counting a Southeastern Conference championship battle and two College Football Playoff contests after a 10-game regular season.
He will not have a lot to do with the game plan.
He is not the primary leader of the team yet.
There is no Cajun version of his first or last name. Brennan is part of the New Orleans family restaurant dynasty, but Brennan's restaurant on Royal Street in the French Quarter is known for Creole dishes, not Cajun.
Right now, Brennan just wants to be himself today when defending national champion and No. 5 LSU hosts Mississippi State and new coach Mike Leach at 2:30 p.m. in front of a COVID-19-controlled capacity crowd of 25,580 in Tiger Stadium.
"I've run out to Tiger Stadium a number of times," Brennan said this week on a teleconference. "I prepared the last three years as if I was the starter. Now, I'm gong to be able to be that guy that runs out on the field first."
One baby step at a time when you are trying to replace the Ruthian swath that quarterback Joe Burrow left at LSU in 2019-20 — a 15-0 national championship season, the first pick of the NFL Draft, a Southeastern Conference season passing record of 5,671 yards, a NCAA season record of 60 touchdown passes, and the school's first Heisman Trophy in 60 years.
Nice round number that 60, which was the Major League Baseball home run record held by Babe Ruth from 1927 through 1960.
What are the odds?:Heisman preseason lines for Myles Brennan, Derek Stingley Jr.
Brennan, who is 21, was asked four days ago what will it be like following basically the best that ever was.
"It doesn't change anything for me," he said pointedly. "You know, Joe came in here, and he did his thing. What he did was great. It's my turn now to do my thing and write my own story."
Burrow's book will probably be out sooner and be longer.
"I'm not really worried about making sure I do what Joe did and making sure I'm throwing as many touchdowns or breaking the records that he did," Brennan said. "I'm Myles Brennan, and I'm not worried about what he did. And I'm not going to be following in his footsteps because it's time for me to take my own path."
Brennan will also not have two vital sous-chefs that Burrow expertly used in his touchdown kitchen last season - wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase. Jefferson went in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft a year early after his junior season. Chase opted out from LSU last month before his junior season for the 2021 NFL Draft as he is considered a top five or 10 pick.
"He made that decision for himself," Brennan said of Chase, who last season won the Biletnikoff Award that goes to the nation's top receiver after he led the nation in receiving yards with a SEC record 1,780.
"Ja'Marr did his thing, and we didn't really blink with that," Brennan said.
Junior Terrace Marshall Jr. is the lone returnee of LSU's tremendous trio of receivers. But he will be joined by fabulous freshmen receivers Kayshon Boutte and Arik Gilbert, who also plays tight end, as the Tigers could have their new three amigos.
"He's taking over that starting spot," Brennan said of Boutte, who is from Westgate High in New Iberia. "He never missed a Saturday morning film session. He was always there. That goes a long way."
Gilbert at 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds will be a difficult cover for defensive backs and particularly linebackers.
"He's going to take advantage of his size," Brennan said. "He's going to make sure he comes down with that ball."
Also gone is master offense chef Joe Brady, who took LSU's passing game to the moon from basically Bunkie for most of the previous decade in just one season with Burrow. Brady is also in the NFL now as offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. NFL coaching veteran Scott Linehan replaced him.
Brennan still has offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger table side, which has been the case since Brennan came to LSU in 2017.
Every other coach he thought was his - head man Les Miles, who recruited him, and offensive coordinators Cam Cameron, who also recruited him, and Matt Canada, who wanted to start him as a freshman, was fired. Along the way, he lost the starting job to transfers Danny Etling in 2017 and Burrow in 2018.
In two seasons of backup duty around one game in 2018 when he was red-shirted, Brennan has completed 42 of 70 passes for 600 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions.
The one game played in that was not already decided when he entered was one of the worst losses in LSU history - 24-21 to 20-point underdog Troy in 2017, and he threw a key interception. Ever since then, he has never been close to becoming the starter ... until now.
"I've always believed in Myles Brennan," said LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who enters his fourth full season as head coach.
"I never had any doubt that I would get to where I am today," Brennan said. "That's why I'm still here. When I came in as a freshman, my goal was to be the starter. I was denied that for the first three years."
Amid the rash of coaching changes at LSU, it would have been normal for him to transfer.
"He waited his turn," Orgeron said. "A lot of respect for that. He has a strong arm, probably a stronger arm than Joe Burrow has. He can extend plays with his feet, but not quite like Joe did. He's learning the offense. He was very accurate in all three scrimmages."
"I'm going to be my calm, cool, collective self," Brennan said.
"The only thing that we don't know is how he's going to do in the fire," Orgeron said. "And the only way to know that is to put him in the fire. I do believe that he's going to do very well. I trust Myles. He's become a team leader. Short passing game is his strength. The deep ball is something that he is very good at, but that takes time for him and his receivers. Hopefully, he can improve in that throughout the year."
Brennan will also not be suggesting plays right off the bat as Burrow did last season. He will not be a coach on the field as Burrow was.
"Let me say this, Joe earned his way," Orgeron said. "I said, 'Listen, if there are some plays that you want to run, you let me know and let Coach Ensminger know. If there's some stuff that you don't like, let me know.' That's how much I trusted Joe. That was after a year of starting, and that was after a year of leading the team. This is Myles' first year. It's basically, 'Yes sir, no sir,' right now."
Brennan's weight is finally similar to that of Burrow as he has got nearly 50 extra pounds to stick on his 6-foot-5 frame over the last three years of eating to win.
"You know when he came to us at about a buck 70, I was worried," Orgeron said. "Now he's 218, so I think he's prepared himself. He's gotten stronger in the weight room."
He's no Burrow, though. Burrow (6-4, 225) looked like a tight end and played like it, having little trouble with defensive backs and linebackers on many designed run plays.
"He's going to be different than Joe," Orgeron said. "Joe went to run you over. I think Myles is going to be smart and go running when he needs to, dive when he needs to, or whatever he needs to do not to get hurt."
If Brennan is injured, all Orgeron has are two true freshmen in Max Johnson and TJ Finley. This is why Orgeron was recently asked if he might consider putting Brennan in a completely quarantined bubble against COVID-19 and everything else.
"You know what, I haven't told him that, but it's a good idea," Orgeron said. "He wears a mask all the time. He goes home and comes to work. Hopefully, that's all he does."
Brennan's waiting room quarantine on the bench is finally over.
"I wasn't going to let adversity get in my way and stop me from achieving my dream," he said. "So here I am today. This is what my family's been waiting for, and it's obviously what I've been waiting for as well. To be able to go out there and perform for them, make them feel proud is what I'm most looking forward to."