Mettenberger expects to play but not pass Jefferson

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, August 10, 2011

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Transfer quarterback Zach Mettenberger expects to play for LSU this season.

That doesn’t mean he expects to take starter Jordan Jefferson’s job, or even backup Jarrett Lee’s.

“When I was getting recruited, I didn’t look at it as I’m going to come in and start right away,” said Mettenberger, whose college career has taken him from Georgia to junior college in Kansas and now to Baton Rouge.

Email newsletter signup

“Obviously, Jordan is in position to be the winningest quarterback in LSU history,” Mettenberger continued. “It’s not like I was just going to walk in and take his job. Worst-case scenario, I still have two years to play and for me that’s fine. I do look to get some game experience this year, but right now it’s definitely Jordan’s job — and Jarrett’s the backup.”

Mettenberger arrived at LSU last January with a lot of hype, but was not permitted by coach Les Miles to speak with reporters until LSU hosted its 2011 media day on Tuesday.

The sophomore from Watkinsville, Ga., began his career as a redshirt freshman at Georgia, but then was dismissed by the Bulldogs because of legal trouble stemming from his treatment of a woman at a bar. He then went to Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas, where he passed for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns for an 11-1 squad that did not lose until the junior college national championship game.

His arrival at LSU caused a stir because the Tigers have struggled to pass the ball consistently for most of the past three seasons, when Jefferson and Lee have played quarterback.

However, Miles reiterated on Tuesday that Jefferson — who is 20-7 as a starter and 11 wins from Tommy Hodson’s career LSU mark of 31 — is the projected No. 1 quarterback as well as an emotional leader of the offense.

“He’s enjoying the position that he has on this football team,” Miles said. “He is now enjoying being who he is in that role. I think he is confident in where he is at and more relaxed. Nothing will happen on Saturdays that he hasn’t experienced before.”

As for Mettenberger, Miles said LSU fans have to be patient.

“I appreciate the idea that our fans are most interested in him coming in to play,” Miles said. “He is a tremendous talent and a guy that needs to mature. … You have to give him time to mature, and once you do, he will be fine.”

Although Mettenberger said he does not expect to start this season, he does expect some playing time, given that he will have the inside track to the starting job in 2012.

“Coach would be naive to just play (Jefferson and Lee) this year and be preparing for the 2012 season with a quarterback with no game experience at all,” Mettenberger said. “I definitely think I’m going to get some meaningful snaps this year and I think I can help the team win this year.”

Jefferson, meanwhile, said he has spent the entire offseason working on his game, organizing drills with receivers between spring and fall practices. He also took part in the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La., where he was a counselor along with Stanford’s Andrew Luck, and where he was able to learn from NFL greats such as Peyton Manning.

“I definitely feel a lot more confident,” Jefferson said. “Everything that goes on on the field, I already know what’s going to happen before the play starts. It’s actually fun being out there, picking up blitzes, throwing the ball to the right receiver. So that’s a good thing when you know what you’re doing.”

Jefferson said he, Lee and Mettenberger get along well and that, rather than feeling threatened by the competition, he takes comfort in knowing that LSU has depth at one of the most important positions on the field, and that the season won’t be derailed if he misses time with an injury.

“The quarterback position is going to be very good this year,” Jefferson said. “We do have a lot of depth and those guys will be ready at all times. Anything can happen and I guess whenever their number’s called, they’re going to be ready.”