LSU Football: Why Zach Mettenberger Will Be in the 2013 Heisman Conversation

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2012

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 13:  Zach Mettenberger #8 of the LSU Tigers throws the ball before a game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Tiger Stadium on October 13, 2012 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Game after game, quarter after quarter, throw after throw, we all saw the improvement and maturation of LSU junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger in 2012.

The talented signal-caller directed his team to a solid 10-2 record in his first season as the Tigers' starting quarterback.

Perhaps he didn't quite live up to the hype that was surrounding him heading into this year's college football season, but then again, perhaps the hype was the issue.

Given that this was Mettenberger's first season as a starting quarterback at the Division 1 level, I would say that passing for 2,489 yards and 11 touchdowns while leading his team to a 10-win season is pretty darn good. And of course, let's not forget that he did this while playing against college football's top competition in the SEC conference.

So how good can Mettenberger be next year?

Is it fair to label him a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate for 2013?

Well, if you take a look at Mettenberger's numbers this season, they aren't exactly Robert Griffin III- or Johnny Manziel-type numbers, but you know that this kid is only going to get better with time.

It's never easy for a new quarterback to come into a starting role and deliver right off the bat. But by the end of this season—especially in that final four-game stretch against Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas—you could just tell that this kid was starting to get it. The game seemed to slow down for Mettenberger, and passes that weren't hitting his receivers in the hands early on in the season began doing so on a regular basis.

In that final four-game stretch, Mettenberger completed 81 of 131 passes (62 percent) for 1,070 yards (268 YPG) and four touchdowns. Most importantly, the final three games were all wins for LSU.

Those stats right there suggest that Mettenberger is only going to get better next season. He will return along with the majority of that LSU offense, a unit that averaged more than 30 points per game this season.

Mettenberger also developed a nice connection with his wide receivers, specifically Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr., both of whom were only sophomores this season and will be back next year.

This isn't to suggest that Mettenberger should be considered a Heisman Trophy lock heading into the 2013 season. But if he continues to improve and plays at an even higher level than he did to close out this season, then he certainly has a shot to put himself in the Heisman conversation.

"The 2013 winner of the Heisman Trophy is...Zach Mettenberger"

That has a nice ring to it, wouldn't you say?