BOWL PREVIEW: Mettenberger to the rescue, despite baggage
Editor’s Note: The following appears in Tiger Rag’s annual Bowl Preview Edition, available now. Throughout the month of December and into January, TigerRag.com will run a select group of columns and features from the issue. To purchase the 48-page full-color print edition, CLICK HERE for subscription information.
By GLENN GUILBEAU
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
BATON ROUGE - One of the worst quarterback eras in the history of LSU football is about to end.
Zach Mettenberger, the most sought after junior college quarterback in the nation, publicly committed to LSU on Dec. 6, was scheduled to arrive at LSU on the weekend of Dec. 11, sign scholarship papers the next week, appear before a entrance review board and enroll for the winter semester. He can then begin classes in January, take part in the off-season conditioning program and participate in spring drills as a sophomore. He will have three years to play three seasons.
Trust me, he will be LSU’s starting quarterback in 2011, ‘12 and ‘13.
Hope is on its way. Mettenberger, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound, strong-armed, pure drop-back quarterback formerly of Georgia, completed 176 of 299 passes (59 percent) for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns with just four interceptions at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan., in the 2010 season. He led the Grizzlies to an 11-1 record and national runner-up finish.
LSU has not had a quarterback throw for 2,000 yards since Matt Flynn in 2007. It has not had a quarterback get close to 30 touchdowns since JaMarcus Russell with 28 in 2006.
Over the last two seasons combined, LSU quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, who will each be seniors in 2011, have combined to throw just 25 touchdowns. They threw just six this season. Of the 120 upper division schools, only Army had fewer touchdown passes with five. Mettenberger threw six in one game this season.
Jefferson, who started all 12 games in 2010, failed to throw for 100 yards in half of those.
On the season, he had four touchdown passes - the lowest in the nation of the 100 quarterbacks listed in the NCAA statistics of Football Bowl Subdivision schools in both passing efficiency, where Jefferson is No. 98 with a 109.71 rating based on 108-of-190 passing for 1,253 yards with nine interceptions, and in passing offense, where he did not make the top 100.
When Lee was the starter for the majority of the 2008 season as a redshirt freshman, he finished second to worst in the nation in interceptions per attempt with 16 in 269 passes, or one every 16.8 attempts, and led the nation in throwing interceptions that were returned for touchdowns with seven. Lee was No. 81 in passing efficiency at 116.93 based on 143-of-269 passing for 1,873 yards and 14 touchdowns.
It is against junior college competition, but Mettenberger finished 2010 with a 165.74 efficiency rating. That would have been a No. 7 finish this season in the upper division NCAA statistics and just off the LSU record of 167.0 by JaMarcus Russell, who finished third in the nation in passing efficiency in 2006.
“If you ask me, he’s going to be in the pros in a couple of years,” Butler wide receiver Brett Soft told the El Dorado Times recently. “He’ll be starting some day for a team in the NFL.”
Mettenberger chose LSU over Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Cincinnati, Troy and Louisville.
He will not be given the quarterback job, but rest assured he was recruited to be the starter as soon as possible. LSU coach Les Miles has rarely signed junior college players in his six seasons here, but LSU has rarely been this bad at the passing game.
The Tigers finished 2010 12th of 12 teams in the Southeastern Conference and 107th in the nation in passing offense with 155 yards a game. In total offense, LSU finished 11th in the SEC and 92nd nationally with 332 yards a game. In 2009, LSU was 12th in the SEC in total offense and 112th nationally with 304 yards a game and ninth in the SEC and 97th nationally in pass offense with 181.8 yards a game.
“I think everybody knows we need a quarterback,” Miles said recently. He was speaking in the context of the number of quarterbacks on scholarship (2), and the fact that both will be seniors. But that comment can be taken on its own without context and be very accurate.
“I think our recruitment is pretty open,” Miles said. “I think our guys (Jefferson and Lee) understand.”
There will be an entirely new energy around the quarterback position next season. The only question is will Miles keep offensive coordinator Gary Crowton around to be a part of it.
Mettenberger, though, still has to be cleared by an LSU arrest review board. He was kicked off Georgia’s team last May after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery of a woman, whom he grabbed at a bar in Remerton, Ga., last March.
“If a student applies to LSU, and he or she has an arrest on his or her record, the application is reviewed by a three-member faculty/staff committee to determine admission,” Kristine Calongne, LSU’s director of communications and university relations, said in general terms. LSU officials cannot speak about specific student-athlete prospects.
Miles also spoke in general terms about his philosophy toward recruiting players with arrest records.
“If you watch how I’ve dealt with my guys here, I look very specifically at the incident,” he said. “And I do as much research as I possibly can. When I invite a guy to visit or to join our team, it is my belief that he will be a very positive influence. And the experiences that he’s had will help him even further in this new experience with us. I believe in the guys that I invited on this campus.”
Miles believes in Mettenberger. Soon, so will the LSU Nation.
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