Expectations are high on Mettenberger

Published 12:03 am Sunday, June 17, 2012

If LSU hopes to finish what it started this past fall, a strong passing attack is going to be a necessity.

Enter quarter Zach Mettenberger, a junior college transfer who sat on the bench last season while Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson took snaps behind center.

For those unfamiliar with him, Mettenberger signed with LSU in 2011 out of Butler Community College. He originally signed with Georgia out of high school, but was kicked off the team in 2010 after being arrested for sexual battery of a woman in a bar in Remerton, Ga.

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Boasting a big arm and a ranking as the No. 1 junior college prospect in the country while he was being recruited in 2011, LSU fans are hoping Mettenberger can make them forget about their passing-game woes from last season.

After a 14-for-25 performance in LSU’s spring football game, which included two touchdowns, Tiger fans are all the more eager to see if Mettenberger can deliver in actual games.

Mettenberger threw for 270 yards in April’s White and Purple scrimmage with two interceptions to go along with the touchdowns. Some might say that LSU fans need to curb their enthusiasm about Mettenberger due to his inexperience, but I would argue that the expectations are quite reasonable.

Wait a second, you might say. Is it reasonable for a first-year starter at quarterback to be expected to lead a team to a national championship?

It’s not unheard of for a rookie quarterback to help his team nab a crystal football. In fact, it’s happened the last three years in a row. Auburn’s Cam Newton and Alabama’s Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron were all first-year starters when their teams won national championships. If the Tigers win it all this coming season, Mettenberger will be the fourth rookie quarterback in a row to have pulled off such a feat.

And let’s be honest, unless Mettenberger falls flat on his face, it would be almost impossible for him not to be an improvement from last year. When the New York Giants drafted former Tigers receiver Rueben Randle, Giants Director of Scouting Marc Ross gave a particularly damning quote:

“The way LSU plays, they run the ball, they play defense and those two quarterbacks (Jefferson and Lee), to be quite honest, are not very good,” Ross said. “So (Randle) didn’t get a lot of chances. When the ball came to him, he was productive.”

It was the lack of a downfield passing game that contributed heavily to the demise of LSU in the national championship game against Alabama. In order to beat the Tide, and win it all, the Tigers will need to be more than one-dimensional.

That’s not to say LSU fans should expect Mettenberger to light everyone up right out of the gate. It even took Newton a few games in 2010 before he really got going. When Mettenberger throws that first interception, Tiger fans are going to have to show patience and expect the defense to pick the team up, as it did many times in 2011.

But as highly touted as Mettenberger comes, it’s not unreasonable for fans to expect a lot from him. Mettenberger knew when he signed with LSU that it’s national championship or bust in Baton Rouge. He also knows Tiger fans are hurting after this past January.

No pressure, Zach.