LSU's Zach Mettenberger is bracing for challenges ahead

Zach Mettenberger lugged pads and a helmet onto the turf at LSU’s indoor practice facility.

But the brace encasing the left knee of the Tigers’ quarterback probably hinted at where the scrutiny of NFL scouts, general managers and coaches would fall during his half hour workout Wednesday during the Tigers’ pro day.

Thirteen weeks after surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the regular-season finale against Arkansas, Mettenberger tried to use his first workout to allay concerns about his recovery process in an unscripted throwing session the senior hoped would leave a simple impression.

“I’m healthy enough to go through practice,” Mettenberger said, “and compete for a job.”

On its face, the results might be taken as mixed.

Donning a gold practice jersey stretched over pads and a helmet, Mettenberger cranked out 123 throws to seven receivers, who included potential picks in wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. along with running back Jeremy Hill.

Fourteen of those passes hit the ground, which included seven drops. Four misfires came to Landry, whose sure hands and precise route running made him Mettenberger’s prime target on third down last season.

Yet Mettenberger, who has not taken part in a private workout with an NFL franchise, attributed the accuracy to the fact his receivers have been off doing their own draft prep, and an extended break that made timing an issue.

“It wasn’t the most disciplined route-running that we’ve had here,” said Mettenberger, who had 5,783 yards and 35 touchdowns to go with a 62.2 completion rate in his career. “It’s something coach Cam (Cameron) wouldn’t allow. But all things considered — guys being gone, and we’ve haven’t been with coach Cam every day for three months— it went pretty well.”

Mettenberger’s own rehabilitation process factors in, too.

On some throws, particularly curls and some deeper crossing patterns, his ball placement was somewhat high or behind his receivers, including two overthrows on deep post routes to Beckham and Landry.

Yet Mettenberger said he checked off the bigger box of showing his knee was in good health.

“I wanted to go out there and show I could take an explosive drop and throw the ball downfield like everyone knows I can,” Mettenberger said. “It was great to get out there and compete.”

Asked what the injury, and its ill-timing, meant for Mettenberger’s maturity, Cameron said it accentuated a trait his quarterback already possesses.

“Adversity is a good thing,” Cameron said. “You’re not going to have to worry about Zach Mettenberger standing in the pocket just because he’s had an ACL (tear).”

Jack Marucci, LSU’s head athletic trainer, said a strength test of Mettenberger’s knee showed it was roughly 97 percent healed after surgery in January, and there were no restrictions placed on him Wednesday.

The roughly three-month recovery window is also average now for the program, which followed a similar template for former players Marcus Randall, Stevan Ridley and Alfred Blue.

“This is a procedure we’ve been doing for 14 years,” Marucci said. “We just don’t make a big deal about it. We’ve had plenty of players (who) have had the surgery and come back to play.”

Well enough for Mettenberger, who has been projected a possible third-round pick in May, to earn workouts with the Vikings, Lions and Jaguars later this week — an occurrence he hopes picks up moving forward.

“Hopefully I will now because they see that I’m OK,” Mettenberger said. “Feedback from some teams is they’re afraid to work me out because they don’t want me to get injured or anything.”

Mettenberger may also lean on the fact he spent his final season living as he might as a pro, with a lone three-hour Internet course allowing him to spend extra time in the Tigers’ practice facility digesting film or picking Cameron’s brain.

“The bottom line is a guy’s gotta be tough,” Cameron said. “He’s gotta be football smart, and he’s got to be able to distribute the ball to everybody else throughout his team under pressure in tight windows. Zach can do that. He comes in ready to throw to NFL receivers.”

Now, it’s simply about making sure he can replicate the act in front of the personnel men that dictate his future.

“I did a lot of good things today,” Mettenberger said. “Sometimes, I just hold myself to almost an unrealistic standard, and I wasn’t too pleased with myself on all of those throws today.”