Cameron, Mettenberger work on getting QB back in early season form
The red dot bounced around the projection screen inside the dark meeting room. Holding a laser pointer was LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
Beside him sat quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
The red dot hovered over a play in which Mettenberger weaved a 20-yard pass to what appeared to be a covered LSU receiver, fitting the ball perfectly between a Mississippi State safety and cornerback.
Pass caught. First down.
The segment between Cameron and Mettenberger aired Tuesday morning on ESPN’s SportsCenter, part of the network’s all-access coverage ahead of Saturday’s game at No. 1 Alabama.
The piece highlighted the new Mettenberger at work, the guy who torched secondaries over the first half of this season, the one who completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and tossed 15 scores.
When ESPN’s watchful eyes and pointed cameras are led out of the room, the projection screen might show a different play — one more recent.
That red dot may circle an interception or a Mettenberger misfire.
Cameron’s laser pointer may crawl across his quarterback’s loose lower body, his poor footwork, his stiff hips.
Mettenberger has had more lows over the past three games than he had in the first six.
He’s thrown three more interceptions in three fewer games, has completed less than 60 percent of his passes and has a quarterback efficiency rating of nearly 50 points worse.
Over the off week, the goal was simple: “I want to get back to how I was playing earlier in the year,” Mettenberger admitted earlier this week.
“I really wanted last week to really fine-tune my craft,” he continued. “Some things that were getting sloppy, that I wasn’t doing at the beginning of the year that I started doing toward the tail end of that stretch. Kind of tightening up my game again.”
The off week — no doubt strategically placed — has allowed Mettenberger and Cameron to at least attempt to fix the problems before facing the Alabama defense and its defensive guru head coach.
So what were the problems? Most centered on Mettenberger’s lower body, the quarterback said.
His foot and leg work “got long.” Things need tightening. He spent much of the off watching film — with Cameron, no doubt, by his side with that laser pointer.
Coordinators aren’t normally available to local reporters during game weeks. In ESPN’s brief access, the network didn’t ask about the recent woes. But Cameron, speaking about his influence on Mettenberger, did say this: “Still a work in progress. We’re not done yet, right?”
Mettenberger nodded beside him in agreement.
Time isn’t yet up on Cameron’s session with Mettenberger. At least three regular-season games and a bowl await what’s been a thriving duo. They’ve hit some rough spots lately in the form of turnovers.
Each interception — there have been five in the past two games — has an explanation. This one was forced into coverage. The other was tipped. Another was underthrown. One involved miscommunication.
Receivers take some of the blame, Jarvis Landry said.
“I think that when opportunity presents itself for us as receivers, we just got to make plays to give him the confidence he needs to carry us through games,” Landry said.
Another issue: LSU has just two receivers with more than seven catches this season. Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., have combined for 106 receptions. Kadron Boone is the next best with six.
Opponents know who to suffocate — that never more evident than Ole Miss’ blanket coverage on Beckham in Mettenberger’s three-pick outing in Oxford, Miss.
Alabama? Yeah, it’ll probably do the same. Alabama plays tight man coverage, crawling up to the line to bump LSU’s receivers.
“We’re going to get a lot of press coverage against Alabama,” Cameron said on ESPN. “They do probably as good of a job as anybody we’ve faced at jamming wide receivers at the line.”
And so back to that laser pointer.
Mettenberger split the man coverage against Mississippi State, the last game before he slipped into that funk.
Then came the off week to — LSU fans hope — heal all wounds.
“Getting my legs back under me, taking an off week to work with coach Cameron on fundamentals,” Mettenberger said. “Feel like I’m back to where I was beginning of the year.”