The LSU Tigers' 2013 season depends on Zach Mettenberger.
The line between success or failure is hidden under the helmet of this star.
If Mettenberger plays like the quarterback fans witnessed in the second half of the Alabama game last year, the Tigers will be a national title contender. The array of talent and high-caliber coaching staff at LSU should handle the rest.
However, if Mettenberger plays like he did against Texas A&M and Florida a year ago, it's going to be a long season for LSU fans—immense talent or not. No pressure, Zach.
So with everything riding on Mettenberger in 2013, fans should know as much as they can about the man taking the snaps for the Tigers. Educate yourselves inside.
Jake Martin is a Featured Columnist of Bleacher Report and a contributor for the The Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from The Sun Herald
The 6’5”, 235-pound senior quarterback from Watkinsville, Ga., is not on the Manning Award watch list this preseason, but he still found his way onto the Maxwell Award watch list, which is given to the best college football player.
Despite the hype, Mettenberger shares good humor.
Here are a few quotes I picked up from Metteneberger in the first week of fall camp:
“Y’all say this every year (about him gaining weight). Am I just a fat piece of crap?”
“Anthony (Jennings) is a really bright kid. I think it’s that Georgia education.”
“Stephen (Rivers), to be 6’8”, he’s learning how to play like a 6’4” player instead of a center for the Utah Jazz or something.”
As you can tell, he's extremely fun to cover. Mettenberger is laid back, outgoing and never afraid to give the media a good quote to add color.
My favorite quote, however, came when he was talking about stories that new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron shared with him about past quarterbacks.
He said he really enjoyed one Cameron told him about Doug Flutie sneaking up to the line and pulling off a quick snap for a 12-yard gain on a quarterback sneak. I asked the quarterback, who's rushed for minus-180 yards in his LSU career, if he would ever do that.
His response? "I would maybe get one yard."
Had everything gone Mettenberger's way, he would be the starting quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Then the bad decisions came. Mettenberger was released from the team, and shortly after pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery.
What followed was Mettenberger's climb back on top. He dazzled at Butler Community College, throwing for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns with only four interceptions in 2010. Mettenberger then came to the Tigers, sat behind Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson and was the face of the Tigers offense in 2012.
In his first year as a starter in the SEC, Mettenberger showed glimpses of greatness but ultimately finished the season with mediocre numbers, passing for 2,609 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
If you wanted to build the prototype pocket passer, it would be Mettenberger.
His strong arm is easily his greatest weapon. Heck, the man rarely underthrows routes.
In fact, his biggest problem in 2012 (excluding his lack of pocket awareness) was overthrowing wide receivers.
When Mettenberger is given ample amount of time, he drops back, steps forward and releases one of the most beautiful deep balls at the college level, not to mention his unrivaled sideline-blistering passes to receivers.
Despite this, his yards per attempt in 2012 was 7.4. If he can gain accuracy with his deep ball and the offensive line holds up for him, that number will grow tremendously in 2013.
The good news about the season riding on Mettenberger is the fact that he is capable of greatness. We've seen it. Two games stand out in Mettenberger's LSU career.
Allow me the displeasure of taking you back to Nov. 3, 2012. Before Alabama mounted that last-minute drive in Death Valley, Mettenberger carved the Crimson Tide defense to shreds. Alabama had no answer for Mettenberger in the second half, as he kept throwing one first down after another, totaling 22 first downs and 14 second-half points.
In fact, it was his best showing of the year and it came against the best defense in college football. He finished the game with 298 passing yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.
How did he follow that up? Well, for a consecutive week, he torched another impressive secondary in the SEC. Against Mississippi State, Mettenberger passed for 273 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
You see, it's there. A remarkable talent is there waiting to lead the Tigers to the national championship, but he needs consistency in 2013. A consistent Mettenberger is a scary thought for opposing defenses.
We won't know how far Mettenberger has truly grown until he shows us on the field this Saturday.
Having said that, signs of encouragement are there. His new teacher, Cam Cameron, seems to have high hopes for him, as do most who have seen his progression. It all started with correcting the fundamentals.
Cameron tightened up Mettenberger's mechanics this summer by making him more compact, making sure his feet stay underneath him. At LSU's media days, Cameron said he believes that should translate to a more accurate quarterback.
As for his maturity, the media seems to find him more laid back all the while being more serious in preparation for the season. Words like "yes sir" are being tossed around the practice field, which wasn't necessarily the case in 2012. Media members have called Mettenberger out for it, asking him if he's matured.
“Gah, you’re killing me. I hope my mother doesn’t watch this and think I’ve been disrespectful to Coach Kragthorpe (last season’s offensive coordinator before vacating the position with an illness). Geez,” he said.
As for the players, they are behind their quarterback. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham wore smiles the first week of media interviews, as they were truly excited about the possibilities with Mettenberger passing to talents like them and Travin Dural this season.
This is a more mature Mettenberger, and if he can build off of what Cameron has taught him this offseason, he should be a much-improved quarterback for the Tigers.
Expect significant gains in Mettenberger's second season as a starter.
The combination of comfort, Cam Cameron, and coalition of returning starters on offense will see Mettenberger fly high for the Tigers in 2013.
With improved mechanics, Mettenberger's errant throws should be limited and his decision-making should be better after an entire year of catching up to the speed of the game in the SEC.
Now, let's get to some solid predictions for Mettenberger. Numbers-wise, gains will be recorded in the stat book. In 2013, Mettenberger will throw for over 3,000 yards and close in on 20 passing touchdowns for the Tigers.
Unfortunately, because of the Tigers' ground-and-pound style, no postseason awards will be awarded to Mettenberger. However, his polished game will gain him respect from all fans in the SEC.