NFL Prospect Focus: LSU Offense

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Going into the season, LSU had three legitimate senior NFL prospects on their roster, quarterback Zach Mettenberger, fullback J.C. Copeland, and guard Josh Williford. Williford sustained a major concussion during pre- season practice, his second in less than a year and as a result has stopped playing football. The other two are having productive seasons to date this year.

Zach Mettenberger – Quarterback

Mettenberger originally enrolled at Georgia in 2009 and redshirted. He was charged and pleaded guilty to a sexual battery charge in the spring of 2010 and was removed from the football roster. He transferred to Butler Community College in Kansas and played there in the 2010 season. He then transferred to LSU. He was a backup in the 2011 season and has been the starter the last two seasons. Until this past Saturday at Ole Miss, he had been enjoying a productive season. In their first 6 games, he had thrown only two interceptions, but he had three on Saturday as LSU suffered their second loss of the season. For the year, Mettenberger has completed 135 of 207 passes for 2164 yards, 16 TDs and five interceptions.

Mettenberger is a big guy at about 6’5 – 230. He is an average athlete and lacks top foot quickness. He has some straight line quickness but is not overly agile. I would say he runs in the 4.9 – 4.95 range. He plays in a pro-style offense and has played from both under center and in a spread this season. He shows adequate setup quickness, but he is not very mobile. Because of his lack of mobility, he does get sacked a lot. He will show a feel for pass rushers and step up in the pocket, but he cannot extend plays with his feet. He displays good throwing mechanics, holds the ball high, and has a quick compact delivery. He has very long arms but can get rid of the ball faster than many long armed QBs. He has good arm strength. He doesn’t drill the ball, but he puts a nice spin on it and throws a very catchable ball. This season he has shown good accuracy and touch to go along with good ball placement. He shows poise in the pocket, is patient, and can go through a progression. In the games viewed, his decision making was good, and I didn’t see many forced throws. LSU does have some designed rollouts, and he shows he can throw on the run, but he is not a threat to get yardage with his feet.

When grading QBs you not only look at the physical traits but what they do in key situations. In one game (Georgia), Zach was 6-9 on third down including three TD passes. That is excellent production, but you don’t see that every game. His on-field demeanor has also been good in the games I’ve seen. He has shown a great deal of improvement this season. Having a former NFL Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator (Cam Cameron) helps in his development. Still, at this time, I don’t see an NFL starter. There are questions I need answered. As big as he is, I don’t see a well-developed kid. He needs to spend more time in the weight room. While he has shown some on field leadership this year, I need to know more about his football character (passion for the game, work habits, competitive nature, etc.). His past indiscretions may have been just a sign of immaturity at the time, but at the position he plays, you have to have all the answers. There is still a long way to go in the evaluation process, and I will update this evaluation as I get all the answers. He is an interesting prospect, but at this time I wouldn’t use a premium pick on him.

J.C. Copeland – Fullback

In short, Copeland is a football player. He doesn’t have great traits, but he can do what is asked of him and do it well. Copeland is a fourth year senior and a two year starter at fullback. He plays in a rotation. He was a highly touted defensive lineman in high school. LSU converted him to a fullback. He has great size at about 6’1 – 270, and at that size, he is light on his feet and has better than adequate play speed. He is quick off the ball and finds his block. He is explosive on contact and often puts his opponent on the ground. He has the athleticism and body control to adjust to and hit a moving target. In pass protection, he is alert, can use his hands, and anchor. He is used as a receiver on occasion, shows good hands, and has the upper body flexibility to adjust to the ball. He shows adequate run after skills. He is also used as a short yardage specialist. To date, this season, he has 12 carries for 27 yards and three TDs. As a runner, he is a powerful straight ahead runner. He can stay low and move the pile.

There are not a lot of teams that use a fullback in their offense. He can play for the teams that do. With his size and pass catching skills, he may also be able to play some H-Back. Because of his specialist type skills, he may not get drafted. He is good enough to deserve being a mid to late round pick, but because of the value of his position throughout the league, the chances are he will be an undrafted free agent. Still, I feel that he will play in the league and be a contributor.

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