Danny Etling was asked to be more of a game manager in his first season for the LSU Tigers, which is something that he wasn’t familiar with early on in his collegiate career.
Etling started the last 10 games of the 2016 season. In those games, he never threw more than 30 passes per game, only topped 250 yards through the air twice and had just three multi-touchdown games. Compare that to his Purdue days and that’s a dip in production.
During the 2013 season, Etling’s first year in West Lafayette, he attempted around or exceeded 30 passes in each of his eight starts. Against Indiana that year, Etling threw 49 times. Then in 2014, he once again attempted around or exceeded the 30 attempt mark in his five starts for the Boilermakers.
Although Etling’s production saw a drop once he reached Baton Rouge, he was more efficient in his new environment compared to his old surroundings.
Etling’s play making wasn’t anything to drool about last season. But he was more accurate, completing 59.5 percent last season as a Tiger compared to connecting on 55.5 percent of his attempts throughout his two years a Boilermaker. Not only did he complete more of his throws, but he also increased his yards per attempt as well, going from 5.8 to 7.9.
The senior signal caller improved upon his touchdown-to-interception ratio as well.
Last year, Etling possessed a 11:5 TD:INT ratio. While that isn’t anything spectacular to the naked eye, that was better than his previous ratios during his two seasons with Purdue. And keep in mind, Etling improved efficiency came against far superior competition.
Etling only faced five Top 70 FBS defenses during his time at Purdue. In his first year with LSU, he saw nine Top 70 FBS defenses.
Another encouraging fact to Etling’s improvement in the purple and gold was his play late in the 2016 season. In the last four games of the season, Etling completed 61.2 percent of his throws for 902 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception. LSU also went 3-1 during that stretch, including two convincing wins over Texas A&M and Louisville in the Citrus Bowl.
It was good for LSU that Etling improved upon his efficiency from his Purdue days. But can he continue to become a more polished passer heading into his last collegiate season?
On paper, the answer might seem like a no. Despite returning three starting offensive lineman, the Tigers lost five of their top six wide receivers from last year. Senior D.J. Clark is LSU’s top returning receiver after catching 26 passes for 466 yards three touchdowns. However, after looking what is on paper, Etling still has a chance to raise his efficiency in 2017.
"When he's healthy I think he will be hard to beat." - Orgeron on Danny Etling and QB derby— Alex Hickey (@bigahickey) May 15, 2017
New offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s system is a quarterback friendly system. He calls to the signal caller’s strengths. Also, take a look at the quarterback play under Canada at his previous stops. He has been able to mold passers into quality signal callers.
Last season at Pittsburgh, Canada helped then-quarterback Nathan Peterman go from 2,287 passing yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015 to 2,885 yards and 27 scores. Canada also made Jacoby Brissett into a solid college signal caller at NC State after Brissett struggled at Florida. So expect Canada to do wonders with Etling in 2017.
And in terms of having inexperienced receivers, it isn’t like the youthful pass catchers LSU possesses aren’t talented. Most of them were 4-star recruits coming out of high school. So Etling should still have some talented playmakers to throw to in 2017 as well.
Entering the 2017 season, Etling still won’t be asked to do much. The Tigers return one of the best, maybe even the top running back in college football in Derruis Guice. However, don’t be surprised if Etling continues to progress. Even if it may be small progressions.