Coming into the 2019 College Football season, Louisiana State University quarterback Joe Burrow was nowhere to be found on the Heisman watchlists. Other quarterbacks such as Tua Tagavaiola and Trevor Lawrence sat comfortably at the top of those lists with no Burrow to be found. Now, coming up on week three of the CFB season, Burrow is tied with Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts for second on Bovada’s “Top 2019 Heisman Favorites” list.
The LSU senior entered 2019 as a second-year full-time starter after playing as a back up at Ohio State from 2015-17 before transferring to LSU. Burrow started all 13 games last year racking up nearly 2,900 yards and 16 touchdowns with a 57.8 percent completion rate. He led the team to a sixth place ranking in the final AP poll and a spot at the Fiesta Bowl where LSU beat the University of Central Florida 40-32.
Burrow has given the Tigers a sigh of relief, as LSU has previously had a hard time keeping quarterbacks under center. From 2011-16, the Tigers cycled through six athletes at that position, with Zach Mettenberger as the only QB to last more than one season. Burrow has given his team the best four-game start to the season in Tigers’ history, posting 231 combined points against Georgia Southern, Texas, Northwestern State, and Vanderbilt.
LSU is now third in the country in passing yards with an average of 380 yards per game. And this success is directly attributable to Burrow’s skill and Coach Ed Orgeron’s offensive scheme. Under former LSU Coach Les Miles, the Tigers used the shotgun formation sporadically. During his six-year tenure at LSU beginning in 2011, only 33 percent of snaps were from the shotgun — compared to over 94 percent in LSU’s first two games this season under Orgeron.
The current coach has also started heavily utilizing his wide receivers. The WRs have over 1720 yards of reception on the season so far, more than half of last year’s 2,200 yard receiving core. Lead Receiver Ja’Marr Chase already has 397 yards and five touchdowns on the year — 11th in all of college football this year. The Tigers haven’t had a top 40 receiver in CFB since Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. in 2013.
Though the coaching change has positively affected the program, Burrow’s own personal achievements and raw skill cannot be overshadowed. LSU’s previous quarterback Danny Etling never eclipsed 2,500 yards before being drafted. Burrow, on the other hand, has already thrown for over 1,520 yards in just four games. He also has an 81 percent completion percentage, 17 touchdowns, and a 225.6 passing efficiency rate according to College Football Reference.
Burrow’s story is one that continues to emerge around college football. Many teams have found success through the “transfer portal”, and Burrow is yet another standout quarterback who has thrived during his second chance as a college athlete. Burrow and Orgeron have put LSU back in the discussion as a top team in college football. Only time will tell if the Tigers can take the next step and become a championship-worthy team.