Mettenberger gets plenty of attention at camp
THIBODAUX — Sitting in a corner of the interview room at the Manning Passing Academy, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger was surrounded by some of the nation’s top quarterbacks.
A few feet to his right, there was reigning champion A.J. McCarron from Alabama, and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, the top passer in the Southeastern Conference a year ago. Across the room sat Matt Barkley, a possible No. 1 draft pick whose return makes USC a title contender.
With that crew around — not to mention NFL stars Peyton and Eli Manning — there was plenty for the swarm of media members to focus on. But Mettenberger, who has thrown a grand total of 11 passes in Division I, drew one of the biggest crowds.
Adding a so-called pure passer like Mettenberger provides the Tigers with an element they didn’t have last year, when they fell one game shy of a national title.
Expectations are high, and “the Mett-siah” has noticed.
“It’s kind of tough going out to a restaurant somewhere in Baton Rouge,” Mettenberger said.
Still, he has no illusions of stepping in and rewriting the school record book.
After a bright start at Georgia that was spoiled by legal troubles, a big year in junior college and a season on the bench at LSU, Mettenberger is keeping his goals simple.
“I don’t need to go out there and superman every play of the game,” he said. “I just need to get the ball into the playmakers’ hands, be a game manager but also make plays from time to time.”
That means relying on a big offensive line, Spencer Ware and a stable of running backs, then feeding guys like wideout Odell Beckham, Jr.
The first taste came in LSU’s spring game, when Mettenberger led his team to a 24-17 victory, going 14 of 25 for 270 yards and two touchdowns, including a 49-yarder to Beckham.
That was a major step toward his first goal — assuming a leadership position.
“I really wanted to take hold of the team,” Mettenberger said. “We want to accomplish great things this year, and we need a sound leader of the team. I think I’ve filled that role quite well.”
Mettenberger has embraced the spotlight and chance to lead, areas that didn’t come easy for his predecessors, Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, whether because of personality type or the fact that they had to share time.
Lee and Jefferson were efficient last year, each completing better than 60 percent of his passes, but neither was the type to strike fear in an opposing defense. Hopes are that Mettenberger will provide more of an aerial attack, as well as a steady hand in the huddle.
“You play quarterback, and (leadership is) just an automatic role you have to play,” Mettenberger said. “The guys we had last year, they both played their roles very well in their different ways. For me, it was getting the team to rally around me and really be excited about me and this season.”
If the crowd around Mettenberger in Thibodaux was any indication, lack of excitement won’t be an issue.