Mettenberger mentoring Jennings ahead of Outback Bowl
Zach Mettenberger has a message for those who think his LSU career is finished.
“I’m still a part of this team,” the senior quarterback said. “I’m still a leader.”
Even though he won’t play another down as a Tiger, Mettenberger said he is trying to provide a critical set of eyes for rising starter Anthony Jennings as LSU prepares for a New Year’s Day clash with Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
“I’m just trying to mentor him, make this transition as easy as possible,” Mettenberger said. “If that means showing him a tip in the film room or encouraging him in practice, that’s what I’m doing.”
Teammates say it’s smoothed over the switch, even though Jennings, at first glance, presents a different style than the strong-armed senior.
The offensive linemen, in particular, said the offense during pre-bowl practices haven’t varied much from a Mettenberger-led attack.
“He basically can do anything Zach could,” Vadal Alexander said of Jennings. “Got a great arm and reads defenses just as well. Obviously, he’s a little faster than Zach. Maybe a few extra scrambles is all that’s different. The plays are the same.”
Mettenberger — who confirmed an impending surgery will repair the ACL in his left knee — said the Jennings that showed up for the already-famous final drive against Arkansas is the one that has shown up to practice the last week.
“He showed it then. He’s a pocket-passing guy that can work well in the pocket,” Mettenberger said. “If he needs to take off, he will. He’s not your typical dual-threat guy, because there’s no antsy feet, just great accuracy and great awareness.”
Despite earlier reports out of the bowl practices that said zone and read options figured prominently in LSU’s game plan, Alexander and sophomore Trai Turner said Jennings isn’t looking to run much.
Turner said offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has often deemphasized the pursuit.
“That’s something Coach Cam preaches a lot: ‘Go through your reads first,” Turner said. “(Running) is not something Anthony’s looking to do.”
Jennings was only in for Mettenberger after the senior’s brutal knee injury on a play that also saw Jarvis Landry’s acrobatic snag.
Mettenberger said he doesn’t like to revisit the play, especially since he’s needed time to modify his mindset given that he’s not on the field.
“I was kind of a Debbie Downer there for a bit (after the injury),” he said. “The biggest thing for me is to stay focused on this team. It’s just weird because this is the first injury I’ve ever had, so it was tough adjusting.”
Alexander said he hasn’t seen the ‘Debbie Downer” side of Mettenberger. Instead, teammates unanimously said he’s been all in, both for Jennings and the whole team.
“That’s just the type of guy Zach is, always overcoming adversity,” Alexander said. “He’s been in great spirits. His commitment to us hasn’t changed.”
Even as Mettenberger prepares for the NFL combine, which he confirmed Saturday he will attend, Turner said LSU still has unfinished business for Mettenberger.
Chief on the list is a win in Tampa come Jan. 1.
“For us, Zach is present but he’s also symbolic,” Turner said. “Besides just seeing what a confidence booster he is for Anthony, when you see him, you want to practice harder. His season was cut short. We want to get a ‘W’ for him.”