Mettenberger ready to step in at LSU

When the discussion hasn’t centered on the team’s anemic offensive effort against Alabama in the BCS national championship game, much of the talk about LSU football has revolved around the team’s future at quarterback.

With Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee moving on from the Tigers, fans will finally get to see the quarterback who many clamored for even before Lee and Jefferson navigated the team through an undefeated season before the loss to the Crimson Tide: Zach Mettenberger.

Mettenberger, a 6-5, 222-pounder, will unquestionably be under the national microscope throughout the offseason and into next fall as the transfer from Georgia transitions into being the starter on a team that will once again be loaded with talent despite some early departures to the NFL.

The rising junior saw action in five games this past fall, but he only threw passes against Northwestern State, going 8 of 11 through the air for 92 yards and a touchdown in the 49-3 victory. He did show off his athleticism, though, in a 52-3 win over Ole Miss, recording a 25-yard run to the 1-yard line on a bootleg. He may not have Jefferson’s ability to run the option, but he’s more athletic than Lee.

And after the performance a few weeks ago against the Tide, I’m sure fans of the Tigers are ecstatic that the option will not be part of the playbook with Mettenberger.

Zach MettenbergerZach Mettenberger will get his chance to lead the LSU offense in 2012.

Everyone in and around Baton Rouge seems excited about the potential of Mettenberger, including head coach Les Miles and quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe. After growing up near the Georgia campus and enrolling early in Athens as one of the top pro-style quarterbacks in the national Class of 2009, he redshirted as a freshman. The following season, his career derailed after entering spring practice competing with Aaron Murray and Logan Gray for the starting job. He was arrested in March at a bar and was eventually dismissed from the program a month later. He would plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery.

Looking to get his life and football career back on track, Mettenberger enrolled at Butler County Community College in Kansas for the 2010 season. Earning the starting gig, Mettenberger threw for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns against just four interceptions in leading the team to an 11-1 mark. He was once again a highly sought prospect, and he found a match with the Tigers, enrolling last January knowing that the starting job would be available with Jefferson and Lee entering their senior year.

He not only has impressed coaches with his arm strength, but he also is deceptively mobile — a quarterback trait that can help any offense no matter the scheme. With Mettenberger at the helm, expect the Tigers to open things up a little more offensively. And expect him to hold onto the job now that top Class of 2012 QB Gunner Kiel has decided to enroll at Notre Dame after giving a commitment to the Tigers.

Although Rueben Randle decided to forgo his senior season, Russell Shephard and Odell Beckham return at receiver, and Kadron Boone could be ready to emerge as a consistent option. The running back depth will still be the envy of the nation, the offensive line will be strong once again and the schedule gets easier. But most importantly, that deep, talented, fast and physical second-ranked defense in the nation isn’t going anywhere, as the two-deep was loaded with underclassmen this year.

Simply put, Mettenberger is surrounded by a ton of talent, which makes his job a whole lot easier.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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