Coaching changes going into a quarterback's senior year could lead to exposure of traits the former system covered up. Among many examples in the past, it seems like San Jose State's David Fales is a victim of such occurrence in 2013. Fales currently has a 60% completion percentage (12.5% lower than 2012) and averages 5.88 yards-per-attempt (3.42 yards lower than 2012). Unlike Fales, though, Zach Mettenberger, LSU's redshirt-senior quarterback, seems to have bucked the trend and improved tremendously over the off-season, since Cam Cameron's taken over the Tiger offense.
On the professional level, as an offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron was able to mold Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and Joe Flacco into the talents they are today. In Drew Brees's first three years with the Chargers, he threw for 29 touchdowns and 31 interceptions, and was replaced by Doug Flutie to end the 2003 season. With the drafting of Philip Rivers, both Brees and the rookie worked closely with Cameron, leading to a combined 74 touchdowns and 32 interceptions over the next three seasons. After leaving San Diego for the Miami head coaching gig in 2007, he returned to an NFL offensive coordinator position in 2008, this time with the Baltimore Ravens.
Working with Joe Flacco, a now 120.6-million-dollar-man, from the start of his career was valuable for the Super Bowl MVP. Flacco, who many compare to Mettenberger, had a 102 touchdown to 56 interception ratio in seasons when Cameron was on the staff. In 2013, though, Flacco's started off slow, which is the polar opposite of how you'd describe LSU's passing offense this season.
Zach Mettenberger originally started off his college career at Georgia, where he was battling for a starting job with Aaron Murray. Before the competition was finished, though, Mettenberger was forced to leave the program due to a violation of team rules, and ended up playing a season in junior college, which he parlayed into an LSU scholarship.
Mettenberger arrived to Baton Rouge in 2011, when Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson were the starting quarterbacks, and the Tigers' offensive running game and defense lead them to an SEC Championship and a national title birth. In 2012, Mettenberger became the starter, with Lee and Jefferson both graduating out of the program, but the LSU offense was still much more focused on running the ball, than allowing Mettenberger to hold the reins. In total, Zach Mettenberger took only 41 red zone snaps where he was either passing or had the option to run, the lowest for any of the major senior quarterback prospects.
The 6'5” 230-pound quarterback is finally coming along in 2013, with one of the main reasons being that the offense no longer views a quarterback as a unfortunate necessity, but as a weapon. In three games alone, Mettenberger's showed tremendous improvement, with a more compact throwing motion and shortened throwing base, and, depending on who you ask, those games have been his best three games in his career to date. At his current pace, he'll match his touchdown production in 2012 by the end of Saturday's match against Auburn; he'll break LSU's single-season passing touchdowns record in early November; and he'll finish second on LSU's all-time passing touchdowns list, behind only Tommy Hodson, who was a four year starter for the Tigers in the late '80s.
Although some question the defensive talent of Alabama-Birmingham and Kent State, there's no denying Mettenberger passed his first test: the nationally televised Cowboys Classic against TCU, who is notably popular for Gary Patterson's complex defense, especially in the secondary. Still, Mettenberger's yet to throw an interception, as he opens up the SEC schedule against Auburn, who's number one corner, Chris Davis, is questionable with a foot injury. That's not what a defensive coordinator wants to hear going into a game, facing the SEC's current leader in pass efficiency.
Optimum Scouting's been high on Mettenberger, even before the season, placing him front and center on the cover of our Draft Season Preview (). Recently, though, he's been picking up steam, even publicly acknowledgment from some of the biggest names in the business in NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah and ESPN's Todd McShay.
If you're not already on the band wagon, there's plenty of room before the draft season really starts to kick off. Believe the hype.