The time is now for Zach Mettenberger. He gets his chance to be the man in Baton Rouge after taking the rocky road early on in his college football career. Mettenberger gives LSU something they haven’t had in quite some time, an elite strong armed, pocket passer. Over the last three years, we have seen the Tigers play musical chairs at quarterback, with Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, neither of which could lead LSU to the promised land.
2011 was an amazing season for the Tigers, as they rolled through everyone on their schedule, which was by far the toughest in the nation. Unfortunately for the Tiger nation, an SEC Championship was quickly frowned upon as they were destroyed in the BCS National Title Game in a rematch with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Mettenberger didn’t show smarts early on in his college career. He was dismissed from the University of Georgia after legal problems left Mark Richt no choice but to send him on his way.
Mettenberger rebounded at Butler Community College in Kansas and led the Grizzlies to an 11-1 record and a birth in the JUCO National Championship Game. Mettenberger and the Grizzlies finished with a number two ranking that same year. He threw for 2,678 yards with 32 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He was rated as the top junior college quarterback in 2011.
Mettenberger saw very limited action in 2011. In fact, it was all mop up duty. He did complete eight of 11 passes for 92 yards and one touchdown.
Turn the page to 2012. Gone are Lee and Jefferson, and the table is set for Mettenberger to eat quite well. He looked very solid in the Tigers’ spring game as he completed 14 of 25 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns, but also had two interceptions. He has formed a rapport with the entire LSU team, which is needed, because come September, this team will be looking for him to be the leader of the Tiger offense. Fortunately for Mettenberger and Tiger fans, it won’t fall squarely on his shoulders.
The Tigers return four starters up front, and as football fans in the SEC know, that is where games are won and lost. Senior center P.J. Lonergan is a returning three year starter, add in the fact that All-SEC tackle Alex Hurst is back should give Mettenberger a great feeling moving forward into fall camp. This offensive line has to be excited about the prospect of playing with a skilled pocket passer.
Behind Mettenberger in the backfield, the Tigers return their four top rushers and add a fifth weapon, in freshman Jeremy Hill. Junior Spencer Ware should get the start, off a 2011 season in which he rushed for 727 yards and eight touchdowns. Although Ware may get the start, it is definitely running back by committee in Baton Rouge. 2011 leading rusher Michael Ford returns with his 772 yards and seven touchdowns. Other contributors will be Alfred Blue and the big bruiser of the bunch, Kenny Hilliard.
As good as the running backs and offensive line are for the Tigers, the wide receiving core will need a leader to emerge. Senior Russell Shepard needs to be that guy. Shepard flirted with jumping to the NFL after his junior season, but decided to stay in Baton Rouge. He returns after a 2011 season that can only be labeled as a disappointment. Shepard only caught 14 balls for 192 yards and only had four touchdowns. His first two years in Baton Rouge, Shepard was a weapon, lining up at running back, receiver and even quarterback.
Odell Beckham Jr. had one heck of a freshman campaign and is primed to be one of the best to ever suit up in Death Valley. He is the Tigers leading returning pass catcher with 41 receptions for 475 yards and two scores.
“We have a certain type of chemistry and connection,” Beckham said when asked about his relationship with Mettenberger.
This 2012 edition of the LSU Tigers is primed and ready to make another BCS Title run. Much will hinge on how well Mettenberger can adapt at being the big man at a big university in a big conference. He has all the ability but the fact is, we just haven’t seen it in action. The time is now, for the Tigers to wash the taste of 2011 out of their mouth. The time is now to finish the season in style. The time is now for Zac Mettenberger and the LSU Tigers.