After four seasons with an offense reliant on the power running game, LSU finally has a quarterback capable of leading a downfield passing attack.
Zach Mettenberger, the Tigers’ junior signal caller, has created a shift in LSU’s offense.
“It just makes us a lot more productive and more efficient in the passing game,” LSU coach Les Miles said of Mettenberger. “There’s no real quarterback run in this offense. Therefore, the ability to get the ball in other guys’ hands down the field just really becomes key.”
Mettenberger has provided that component so far this season, completing 78 of 119 passes for 1,016 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions.
His 203.2 passing yards per game are more than double the 100.5 yards per game leading passer Jarrett Lee threw for in 2011.
With a more accurate, talented passer, LSU’s offense has thrown on 35.9 percent of offensive snaps this season compared to 32.1 percent last year.
“[Mettenberger’s] a big-time arm talent,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “He can make all of the throws. He can zip it and he can put touch on it.”
Said Miles: “When he decides to whistle it and throw it on a line, he can step back and let it rip. He’s very accurate and has really good vision.”
All Mettenberger lacks is Division-I experience. Saturday’s start will be the sixth of his career.
Mettenberger originally signed with Georgia, but he transferred to Butler (Kan.) Community College after one year. In his only season, he threw for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns with just four interceptions to lead Butler to the JUCO National Championship Game.
He played sparingly for LSU last season, completing 8 of 11 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown — all in the second half of a 49-3 rout of Northwestern State on Sept. 10, 2011.
“Mettenberger’s a guy that’s got all the arm talent in the world, he just lacks some experience in the [Southeastern Conference],” Muschamp said.
The Tigers are expected to ease Mettenberger’s transition to the big stage with their running attack, which has racked up 229.6 yards per game so far this season.
The ground game is expected to set up chances for downfield passing — opportunities the Tigers were not equipped to take advantage of before Mettenberger took the reins.
“They are going to max it up and take a shot down the field,” Muschamp said. “You need to win those battles.”
Contact Greg Luca at [email protected].