Former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger was viewed more as a liability than a strength at this time last year, but 3,082 yards and 22 touchdown passes later, his absence has left a gaping hole in the 2014 Tiger offense.
Who will fill that void?
It won't be Stephen Rivers.
According to Ross Dellenger and Scott Rabalais of The Advocate, the 6'7", 223-pound rising junior said during LSU's basketball game on Wednesday night that he will transfer to another school after graduating this May.
“There’s an opportunity for me to hopefully play somewhere else,” Rivers said. “I’ve had a great three years here, maybe not necessarily gotten on the field as much as I wanted to, but I’ve really enjoyed my time here."
So what does that mean for LSU's quarterback battle?
Rivers' father, Steve, told the The Advocate that LSU's offense is going in another direction. That direction appears to be more geared toward a dual-threat quarterback, which leaves sophomore Anthony Jennings, true freshman Brandon Harris and former Penn state quarterback Rob Bolden as the likely contenders for the job.
Jennings led LSU on a 99-yard, game-winning drive after Mettenberger got hurt late in the Arkansas game. However, in his first start against Iowa in the Outback Bowl, he wasn't exactly stellar, completing just seven of 19 passes for 82 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception.
He'll enter spring as the favorite. Harris, an early enrollee who will go through spring practice, will push Jennings for playing time.
The 6'2", 193-pound dual-threat quarterback was considered a 4-star prospect during the most recent recruiting cycle and was a superstar at Parkway High School in Bossier City, La. He threw for 3,518 yards and 37 touchdowns as a senior, adding 1,153 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground.
Bolden, a rising senior, probably will be used only as the primary backup—especially if Jennings wins the job. Head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator could use his experience in a pinch if needed, and his presence would allow the staff to redshirt Harris unless it needed him for extended action as starter.
Bolden isn't as much of a dual threat as Jennings and Harris, but his experience could be valuable to the Tigers.
Rivers' departure reduces the chances of redshirt freshman Hayden Rettig springing the upset.
Of the four players vying for the spot this spring, Rettig is the only one who's neither experienced nor a dual threat. He enrolled last January and redshirted during the 2014 season. He has a big and accurate arm like Mettenberger showed off early and often during the 2013 season.
The former 4-star prospect will be fighting an uphill battle versus experience and scheme this spring in Baton Rouge.
Expect Harris and Jennings to split first-team snaps this spring, with a leader emerging following LSU's spring game on April 5.
That will likely be as far as this battle goes this spring, though. With potential superstar wide receiver Malachi Dupre joining the team this summer, Cam Cameron and Miles might want to see which quarterback develops the best chemistry with him during fall camp before settling on their No. 1 guy.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All recruiting information and high school statistics are courtesy of 247Sports.com, and all college statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.
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