Rarely do quarterback recruits find themselves without a school so late in the recruiting process. Granted, Brennan, rated a four-star prospect by Scout.com and the No. 16 quarterback in the country, still counts himself as an LSU commitment. But the Tigers’ recent offer to Alabama commitment Tua Tagovailoa forced Brennan to reevaluate things with National Signing Day just under two months away.
Brennan released a letter six days ago via his personal Twitter account announcing his intentions to hear what other schools have to say. He said he’s planning to visit Ole Miss and Oklahoma State in January. Those are the only trips he has scheduled so far.
“I just wanted to get that letter out there just to let people know that I am going to start taking visits and I am going to start talking to these coaches,” Brennan said. “Because just as LSU went out and offered Tua as a backup plan, I should be able to take a step back and have a backup plan as well. Obviously LSU doesn’t have an offensive coordinator right now; they’re kind of going through a transition period. I’m just going to take my visits and make sure I’m making the right choice.
“I kind of have an idea. Obviously Oklahoma State is going to be one (visit). I’m pretty sure I’m going to go to Ole Miss and check that out. I’m kind of just waiting to see who else contacts me. I know this is a hectic time because most schools have their quarterback right now. I just have to be smart about the places I go. I only have five officials; obviously I’m limited on officials. Time’s critical right now.”
Brennan said he was contacted by Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze prior to his arrival in Montgomery for the the Alabama - Mississippi All-Star Game. It was the latest positive step for Ole Miss and the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Brennan, in a relationship that, for the last year, could probably best be described as complicated.
“They’ve kind of been on the radar for a while now,” Brennan said. “Some ups and downs, but I feel like we’re on a clean slate right now. I actually talked to coach Freeze yesterday before I got on the bus and headed over here. He’s fired up about everything. (Ole Miss QBs) Coach (Dan) Werner, I’ve been in contact with him. I feel like I should be able to go up there and just go check things out. I haven’t been up there just because they offered after I committed. I kind of shut everything down. It is a place that I want to go check out. They run the spread and they throw it around a bit. I feel like I could fit in that system just as well as most of the other systems that I have the ability to.”
Ole Miss currently has one quarterback committed in three-star Alex Faniel. But Freeze has made it clear to Brennan, a Bay St. Louis, Miss., native, that he’s an important piece for the Rebels’ 2017 class.
“He’s been telling me, especially as an in-state guy, to come up and be the 2017 quarterback in this class would be huge,” Brennan said. “They’ve been in contact with me for a while now. They offered maybe a week after I committed to LSU, which was last April. It’s been a building relationship. He’s excited, and he really wants me to come up for a visit and things like that. I’m excited for that because I haven’t been able to sit down with them and really hear what they have to say. I’m looking forward to that.”
Ole Miss returns sophomore Shea Patterson at quarterback. Patterson is a former five-star prospect and was ranked as the No. 1 quarterback in the class of 2016. Brennan said the presence of Patterson in no way hurts the Rebels’ position. If anything, the path towards playing time is made clearer.
Ole Miss finished 5-7 on the season, including a 1-2 record with Patterson under center in place of injured senior starter Chad Kelly. Patterson completed 72 of 132 passes for 880 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.
“That’s kind of anywhere you go,” Brennan said. “Obviously you’re going to have competition. Schools take quarterbacks every year, for the most part. They got a really good one last year. Shea, they pulled his redshirt this year with a couple of games left. That kind of takes away that one year they were hoping to give him. I could go in there and redshirt. The pieces could fall into the right place. I’m just excited to get up there and see what it’s all about. My brother walked on there. I spent a whole season up there for the games and things like that. I know Oxford like the back of my hand. To actually dive into it and be in the driver’s seat would be a little different aspect.”
For Ole Miss to flip him, Brennan said the Rebels simply need “to kind of just sit down and lay everything out.” The possible addition of five-star running back Cam Akers would undoubtedly be a boost, as would even more clarity on the ongoing NCAA issues Ole Miss is dealing with. However, conversations with Freeze and others have helped ease his concerns.
“I feel like, right now, the biggest thing that recruits are, I guess, worried about with Ole Miss is kind of just the violations,” Brennan said. “Obviously there’s a lot of talk. No one really knows what it is except them. I feel like that would be kind of my main question is with all this stuff going on, what is y’all’s plan? The violations, how bad is that going to affect kids like this, because that’s where I’ll spend the next four or five years in my college career. I want to make sure it feels like home and family.
“They’ve told me that if anything happens, they would possibly lose a bowl game next year. If I came in and redshirted, that really wouldn’t affect me. And maybe a few scholarships here and there. It helped ease my mind, because I was hearing three or four years of a bowl (ban), 18 scholarships, just crazy stuff. I never know what to believe nowadays, especially with the media and things like that. A point that coach Freeze made was if Ole Miss is where you want to be, it doesn’t really matter what’s going on, that’s where you’re going to be. I felt like that was pretty neat that he’d come out and say that. If it feels like home, just let the distractions around it take care of themselves.”
The pull to quarterback for his in-state school can’t be dismissed either. Brennan finished his senior season with 3,941 yards passing, 48 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
“It does, and that’s one thing that I haven’t really been able to feel just because I committed, (Ole Miss) offered and I just stopped doing visits and talking to coaches and things like that,” he said. “Now that I’ve kind of re-opened that aspect of it, I’ll be able to go up there with kind of a different mindset and really get the full meaning of it.”
On if Cam Akers ends up at Ole Miss would it help in landing Brennan: “For sure. I know Ole Miss, LSU and I’m pretty sure Florida State are kind of, like, his three right now. I know he’s going to be making his decision pretty soon just because he’s an early enrollee. That would be pretty big.”
On Oklahoma State: “Oklahoma State, I went up there last April, and I went up there without an offer. So it’s kind of a pretty big deal. Their offense is identical to what we do. They spread the field out and spread the ball around. They’re always moving positive yards, whether it’s giving it to the back or whether it’s throwing the ball downfield. And obviously they’ve been successful with it because of how this past season and how previous seasons have gone.”
On LSU: “LSU, an offensive coordinator is going to be a big thing for me, especially as a quarterback, especially having a head coach with a defensive mindset. I feel like an offensive coordinator will be the biggest decision, once they get it, for me. This past year, I spent every home game down there. Now that have things have kind of happened and Les (Miles) and Cam (Cameron) got fired, you don’t know who the head coach is going to be and then you come in and they don’t have an offensive coordinator right now. I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m enjoying the experience down here. When I get back home, I’ll head to Orlando for the Under Armour Game. I’ll enjoy that, and then kind of after that it’s basically crunch time. Then February rolls around and it’s Signing Day.”