LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles famously said Death Valley, the Tigers stadium in Baton Rouge is where “opponent’s dreams come do die.” It’s also the place where the Tigers quarterback development comes to a standstill.
In preparation for Saturday’s matchup between the Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide, I looked at the stat line for current LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, noticing a peak at the beginning of the season, then a steady decline with each game.
With the exception of JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn, four and five star quarterbacks have made their way to Baton Rouge, only to never reach their potential during Miles tenure. Sure some of this can be tied to then offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher’s departure, however, the fact remains.
Ryan Perrilloux: One of the most heralded prospects in Louisiana high school history, Perrilloux was considered to be the best quarterback coming out of high school in 2005, being named a Parade All-American and named to the US-Army All-American Bowl. At the time it was a major coup for Miles as Perriloux switched from the University of Texas to LSU on signing day. However, he never lived up to the hype, earning limited playing time before being eventually dismissed.
Jarrett Lee: A consensus four star prospect by every recruiting service, Lee had all of the tools to become a quality quarterback. He had the size (6-foot-3, 200lbs) and great athleticism (4.68 40 yard dash time), but again never panned out. Lee was thrown in the fire earlier than anticipated after Perriloux’s dismissal, throwing 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in his freshman year, 7 of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns. Lee was limited in the following two seasons, but looked solid filling in for Jordan Jefferson in 2011 (14 touchdowns 3 interceptions). However, after throwing two interceptions at Alabama his starting status was revoked.
Jordan Jefferson: Another 4 star quarterback prospect out of high school,Jefferson looked like he may buck the trend of faltering LSU quarterbacks after leading the Tigers to a 38-3 win over Georgia Tech in the 2008 Chick-fil-A bowl. Statistically, he played well in his sophomore campaign (2166 yards, 17 touchdowns and 7 interceptions), but lost all four games to ranked opponents. His junior year, he took a step back throwing more interceptions than touchdowns, failing to throw for more than 100 yards in 7 of 13 games. Then his senior campaign was headlined by an off the field incident that caused him to miss the first four games. While his stat line was not bad, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly great either;Jefferson threw for over 100 yards in a game just twice in his senior season.
Zach Mettenberger: Mettenberger was considered one of the top pro style quarterbacks out of high school, even challenging Aaron Murray for a starting spot at the University of Georgia before being dismissed from the team. After a year at Butler Community College, Mettenberger transferred to LSU, sitting for most of 2011. Amid plenty of hype, Mettenberger was supposed to be the quarterback to shore up LSU’s passing game, and did so for the first three games of the 2012 season. However, he has been on a steady decline since as his completion percentage has fallen from the 70’s all the way down to 37.9 percent last week against Texas A&M.
Last year, the top prep quarterback Gunner Keil decommited from the LSU Tigers, eventually settling on signing closer to home at Notre Dame. Les Miles said at a booster function on signing day some players didn’t have the “chest” to lead the Tigers, to which many felt he was referencing Keil. Perhaps Keil just wanted to go someplace where he could reach his potential.