LSU's Zach Mettenberger hopes to improve under Cam Cameron

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger (8) throws to a receiver as the LSU Tigers have their first preseason practice Monday at McClendon Practice Facility in Baton Rouge. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger (8) throws to a receiver as the LSU Tigers have their first preseason practice Monday at McClendon Practice Facility in Baton Rouge.

Under Cameron, QB Mettenberger looks take game to next level in 2013

“He’s helped me become a better leader and a teacher of the game to the other guys. As a quarterback, I’ve got to know absolutely everything.” ZACH METTENBERGER, LSU quarterback on Cam Cameron’s coaching

During meetings with his quarterbacks to diagram plays and dissect strategy, Cam Cameron will often drop the big name of a quarterback he’s worked with in the past to make a point.

Drew Brees, Gus Ferotte, Trent Green, and reigning Super Bowl quarterback and MVP Joe Flacco are a few of Cameron’s examples.

After this season, will Cameron be adding Zach Mettenberger’s name to the list?

Though as Mettenberger will tell you with a grin he’s averaged nearly an offensive coordinator per year through his years at LSU, in junior college, at Georgia and back into high school, he is enthusiastic about the bond he’s developed with Cameron and the things they can do together for this year’s offense.

“He’s helped me become a better leader and a teacher of the game to the other guys,” Mettenberger said Monday after the Tigers opened preseason camp. “As a quarterback, I’ve got to know absolutely everything.

“When we’re on the field and someone has a problem they can come to me. They don’t have to go to their coach and get chewed out.

“I can just give them the answer right there.”

Mettenberger was quick to avoid the implication that he wasn’t as prepared last year under then offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa, who is again solely in charge of the offensive linemen charged with keeping Mettenberger upright all season.

“It comes with time,” he said. “The older you get you don’t have to take as many classes (Mettenberger needs only one online course to graduate this fall) and have more time to dedicate to football.

“So far it’s gone great.”

LSU coach Les Miles said he’s seen the seasoning and growth in Mettenberger from his first year as a Tiger as the backup to Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee in 2011, through his first season as a starter in 2012 to the preparations for the 2013 campaign.

“I think he’s improved,” Miles said. “His mind is right. He wants to be a leader.

“He still has improvement to make, certainly, but he’ll continue to make strides.”

Despite his enjoyment of performing under Cameron’s orchestration, Mettenberger said it has been challenging work.

“Offensively the tempo is just going, going, going” in practice, Mettenberger said. “We’re not having a lot of dead time. We want to get to where we get through our whole chunk of practice that’s scripted quickly.

“The majority of things we have, all the concepts, you have to be on top of it all the time. It’s really made me a better student of the game for sure.”

There were stretches of last season when Mettenberger appeared to be struggling with his learning curve.

He threw for over 200 yards only twice in LSU’s first eight games, and when his receivers weren’t dropping passes he was often taking sacks by holding onto the ball too long.

A late-season surge which began with an impressive performance against eventual BCS champion Alabama — Mettenberger completed 24 of 35 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown — spurred a finishing four-game flourish.

Mettenberger threw for 1,070 yards in those final four regular-season games with four touchdown passes and two interceptions. He finished the season completing 207 of 352 passes for 2,609 yards — the fifth-most ever in a season by an LSU quarterback — with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Mettenberger hopes he can be more productive and efficient as a senior, but knows there are limits to what he will be asked to do as a passer.

“We’re not going to be running Oregon’s offense,” he said. “I’m not Johnny Manziel. We’re going to do what we’ve been good at since coach Miles has been here: run the ball and take our shots (passing downfield).

“We’re going to present it a little differently, but we’re still going to do what LSU’s always done.”

And when it’s over, perhaps Cameron will use him as an example of how to do it.