The decision by Joe Burrow to transfer to LSU instead of making arguably an easier move to Cincinnati indicates one thing in particular about the former Ohio State quarterback: He wants the big-time challenge.
He never had the chance to prove what he could do as a starter for the Buckeyes. He backed up J.T. Barrett in 2016 as a redshirt freshman, and then a broken hand caused him to slip to third behind Dwayne Haskins Jr. last season. Coming out of spring practice, with Barrett gone, coaches would not name a starter between him and Haskins.
So, diploma in hand, he sought a fresh start with an immediate shot at leading a team, and evidently coach Ed Orgeron and LSU of the Southeastern Conference offered that. He also considered the University of Cincinnati of the American Athletic Conference, coached by former Ohio State assistant Luke Fickell.
“Excited to be playing in Death Valley next season,” Burrow tweeted in confirming the move, referring to the nickname of LSU’s Tiger Stadium. “Ready to get to work.”
He couldn’t be reached for further comment. But his father, Jim, endorsed the move.
“We are excited about his future,” said Jim, defensive coordinator at Ohio University.
Joe Burrow will step into a pressure-filled situation at LSU. Gone is Danny Etling, a transfer from Purdue now with the New England Patriots, who went 16-7 as a starter in his career and 9-4 last season.
It was a three-man race in the spring among Myles Brennan, Lowell Narcisse and Justin McMillan. The Tigers are revamping their offense under new coordinator Steve Ensminger and aggressively courted Burrow once he announced his intention to transfer May 8.
Baton Rouge Advocate sports columnist Scott Rabalais laid out in a open letter to Burrow what he should expect and what will be expected of him.
Burrow is stepping into a talent-rich program that has been bereft for years of a great quarterback and, to an extent, archaic in its offensive approach dating to the final seasons under coach Les Miles, a slide that seemed to begin after the Tigers beat Ohio State in the 2007 national championship game.
“I hope you like pressure,” Rabalais wrote. “Did you happen to part the waters of any lakes or rivers on your way down from Ohio State?
“LSU football is not just looking for a starting quarterback after the last transfer, Danny Etling, squeezed the last drop of eligibility from his college career New Year’s Day in the Citrus Bowl. It is looking for a savior, to not only deliver the Tigers back to somewhere in the vicinity of college football’s mountaintop, but keep LSU from sliding into mediocrity.”
Jim Burrow knows his son seems to be making a major leap away from home turf — it’s about 1,000 miles from his hometown Athens to Baton Rouge — and to the SEC.
But Jim Burrow grew up in Mississippi. He said he listened to LSU games on the radio as a kid, his father played basketball at Mississippi State and a brother played football at Ole Miss. He went to Ole Miss his freshman year before transferring to Nebraska.
“We are very familiar with the SEC,” Jim Burrow said.
He also said his son is even familiar with one of the favorite culinary delights of Louisiana, too.
“He already likes crawfish,” Jim Burrow said. “He and J.T. found a place in Columbus.”