For LSU QB Nussmeier the Future Is Now
For LSU QB Nussmeier the Futureis Now
By Joey Johnston
For the LSU Tigers, the future isnow.
And that future begins withquarterback Garrett Nussmeier, who will complete his third season at LSU withhis first career start as the Tigers (9-3) meet the Wisconsin Badgers (7-5) inthe ReliaQuest Bowl on New Year's Day at Raymond James Stadium.
"He has put in his time,'' LSUcoach Brian Kelly said. "He has been unselfish in the sense that he has waitedfor this opportunity. He loves LSU. In this age where everybody wants it now,he waited for his chance.''
Nussmeier is getting that chancebecause Jayden Daniels, the Heisman Trophy winner, has opted to not play in thepostseason so he can concentrate on NFL draft preparations.
Daniels, obviously, is a specialtalent. He's one of only five players in SEC history to account for 50touchdowns in a season, joining fellow Heisman Trophy winners Joe Burrow (63),Tim Tebow (55), Cam Newton (51) and Bryce Young (50). He also became the firstplayer in Football Bowl Subdivision history to pass for 350 yards and rush for200 yards in a game, when he went for 372 and 234 against Florida to set theSEC record for total offense with 606 yards.
But Nussmeier, the son of LosAngeles Chargers quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier, has the pedigree thatsuggests he'll be ready for this opportunity.
Nussmeier's earliest memories aresitting on the lap of his father - a career coach who has worked at Alabama andFlorida, along with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys - to study film. In elementaryschool, he had his three-step drop perfected.
Although moving often due to hisfather's nomadic coaching career, Nussmeier said he always considered himself aLouisianan. He was born in Lake Charles. His mother's maiden name is Hebert.
And when it came time to select acollege, despite finishing his high-school career in the Dallas area, he pickedLSU over Texas and Texas A&M, among others.
But Nussmeier (6-foot-2, 205pounds) has been forced to wait.
He competed strongly for the jobin 2022, but Daniels, a transfer from Arizona State, was picked by Kelly,beginning his first season at LSU.
After last season, it would'vebeen expected - perhaps even understandable - for Nussmeier to enter thetransfer portal and display the talent that would've made him the starter atdozens of other programs.
"It matters to me - to wear thisstate on my jersey, to have LSU on my helmet,'' Nussmeier said last spring. "Iwas born in Lake Charles. That's my home. Louisiana is the only constant in mylife. That's why I came back. It matters to me to finish what I started.''
Nussmeier has played in 17 gamesduring his three LSU seasons, completing 56.3 percent of his passes for 1,325yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. While Daniels was a prolificrunner (1,134 rushing yards this season), Nussmeier has just seven careercarries and is more of a pocket passer.
Wisconsin will provide a difficultmatchup with the nation's 26th-best pass defense and a rush that produces 2.4sacks per game.
"Garrett likes to move thefootball down the field,'' Kelly said. "We're going to give this offense a bitof a different look to surround it toward his style.
"We think he's an outstandingplayer. We worked really hard to keep him. He probably would've been the No. 1quarterback in the transfer portal last year and would've been the starter at anumber of SEC schools. He throws it. He throws it all over the place. We'vejust got to make sure he throws it to us.''
For Nussmeier, it's not only achance to win the ReliaQuest Bowl, but also an audition for LSU's 2024 startingquarterback job.
When Nussmeier was beingrecruited, there was more talk about his potential than his high-schoolperformance. He set alarms on his phone with the message "Prove them right.''
The ReliaQuest Bowl is Nussmeier'sproving ground.
The opportunity is here. And thefuture is now.