ZACHARY "Zach" METTENBERGER
Louisiana State University Tigers
Butler Community College
Oconee County High School
The Tigers' senior campaign came to an abrupt end one game earlier than expected when he suffered a left knee anterior cruciate ligament tear in the regular season finale vs. Arkansas. The injury prevented him from properly closing out his career at the Outback Bowl. Instead, he would spend that day cheering on his replacement as Louisiana State pulled out a 21-14 decision over Iowa.
For a school known more for its rushing attack over the years, having Mettenberger in the lineup added a much different dimension to head coach Les Miles' offensive attack. He was in the process of recording a very rare occurrence for the Tigers before his injury – becoming only the third player since the Tigers began playing football in 1893 to throw for 3,000 yards in a season.
Mettenberger was prevented from adding to that total after he had to be helped off the field after he was hit by Arkansas defensive tackle Bryan Jones in the fourth quarter of a 31-27 victory over the Razorbacks on November 29th.
"We are very disappointed for Zach," Miles said after doctors confirmed the extent of the injury after that contest. "He's been a tremendous leader for our team and he's as competitive a guy as I have ever been around. He's had a great impact on our program. I know he will work extremely hard to rehabilitate his knee and I don't anticipate this injury having any impact on what should be a great future in the NFL."
Before going down with an injury, Mettenberger had passed for 3,082 yards with 22 touch-downs and eight interceptions in 2013. He is just the third Tigers' passer to throw for 3,000 yards in a single season, joining Rohan Davey (3,347 in '01) and JaMarcus Russell (3,129 in '06). For Mettenberger, the ligament tear not only ended his college career, but stalled his draft preparations, as he would undergo surgery and then begin his rehabilitation to be fully recovered by the start of 2014 training camp.
It has been a long road for the quarterback in his quest to one day play professional football. He was a highly sought after recruit who originally enrolled at the University of Georgia, where his mother, Tammy, serves as an administrative assistant for Georgia head coach Mark Richt. He red-shirted as a freshman and entered 2010 spring drills competing with Aaron Murray for the starting job, but he violated team rules after an off-field bar incident and was dismissed from the program.
Mettenberger transferred to Butler Community College for the 2010 campaign. He led the Grizzlies to an undefeated regular season before losing to Navarro College in the Citizen's Bank Bowl. He completed 176-of-299 passes (58.86%) for 2,678 yards, 32 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He was regarded as the best quarterback in the junior college ranks and the 17th overall player at this level, according to Rivals.com.
His next "port of call" would see Mettenberger return to the Southeastern Conference, signing with Georgia's rival, Louisiana State. He appeared just briefly in five games during his first season in a Tigers' uniform. His 2010 stats line read – 8-of-11 passes for 92 yards and one touchdown.
Spending time observing the game of football, rather than being heavily involved in the action, gave Mettenberger a new perspective on what it takes to play the sport. He had been the "face" of the Oconee County (Ga.) High School, where he showed flashes of brilliance during his audition as a sophomore, throwing for four touchdowns and 671 yards while connecting on 53-of-86 attempts (61.63%) in five games under center.
The four-year letter-winner began to draw national attention during his junior season. Rivals.com rated the youngster as having the third-strongest arm in the nation. He threw for 1,333 yards and ten touchdowns while completing 117-of-189 attempts (61.9%), but he also threw nine interceptions. Even though the Warriors never won more than four games in any of his seasons as the starting quarterback, Mettenberger was considered to be the elite pro-style passer in the state of Georgia.
As a senior, Mettenberger had grown to 6:05, 228 pounds. He ran for four scores and threw for 2,106 yards with nineteen touchdowns and only six interceptions in 2008. He showed that he had a very "big arm" and could easily make the toughest throws. He displayed good mechanics, but was growing so fast that he had trouble keeping up with his body. Still, he demonstrated he could play in control most of the time and had the arm to punish both zone and man schemes. That brought most of the big college recruiters to make regular visits to his school.
Mettenberger was an Offense-Defense All-American selection as a senior and participated in the Hawai'i-Polynesian vs. Mainland All-American Bowl. He was also invited to the 2008 EA Sports Elite 11 Camp. He added Prep Star Top 100 Dream Team, Super Prep All-Dixie Team and ESPN.com No. 122 ESPNU 150 list accolades. Scout.com regarded him as a four-star prospect, rating him 130th overall in the nation, sixth in the state of Georgia, 33rd among recruits in the South and the 14th-best quarterback in nation.
Mettenberger was rated by Rivals.com as having the third-strongest arm and was their 11th-ranked quarterback in the nation. He received 2008 Atlanta-Journal Constitution Georgia 150, Super Southern 100, and Class AAA All-State honorable mention and was named MVP of Elite 11 Alabama Nike Camp. The 2008 Offensive Player of the Year and Coaches Award recipient at Oconee, he was selected for the All-County and All-Region first-team units.
Mettenberger graduated from high school early and enrolled at Georgia in January of 2009, in time to participate in spring drills. After spending that year as a red-shirt, he stepped on to the college football field for the first time at Butler College, enrolling at Louisiana State the following season. After limited playing time understudying behind Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, he won the starting job coming out of the Tigers' 2012 fall camp.
As a junior, Mettenberger started all 13 games for Louisiana State, leading the Tigers to a 10-3 record. He completed 207 passes, the fifth-highest season total in school history. His 352 attempts rank fourth and 2,609 yards passing rank sixth on the team's annual chart. He tallied twelve touchdowns and just seven interceptions, averaging 200.69 aerial yards per game.
In 2013, Metgtenberger was named a semi-finalist for the Davey O'Brien Award and earned All-Southeastern Conference honorable mention. He generated 3,082 yards with 22 touch-downs and eight interceptions on 192-of-296 throws (64.89%), as coach Les Miles opened up the offense for the first time in Baton Rouge since JaMarcus Russell went for over 3,000 yards in 2006.
Mettenberger's impact on the offense was remarkable. The Tigers ranked 92nd in the nation with an average of 200.54 yards passing per game during the 2012 campaign, but that figure increased to an average of 251.0 yards in 2013. The offense was 85th in 2012 with 374.23 yards per game. In 2013, they ranked 35th behind a 453.3-yard average. They also improved from a scoring average of 29.77 points during the signal-caller's junior season to 35.8 points per game in 2013.
Louisiana State's offense ranked sixth in the nation with a 164.72 passing efficiency rating in 2013, as Mettenberger finished fourth in that individual category with a 171.4 mark. He led the Southeastern Conference and was second in the major college ranks with an average gain of 16.05 yards per pass completion. He also finished third in the league in passing yardage and fifth in touchdown tosses.
During the 2011 season, LSU faced Mettenberger's former team, Georgia, in the SEC Championship Game, but the quarterback never stepped on the field. Prior to the Tigers meeting the Bulldogs during his senior season, Mettenberger's mother, Tammy, Georgia coach Mark Richt's administrative assistant was given the week off by the coach.
"She loves her son, obviously, and it would be awkward for her to be hanging around all week," Richt said before the game. "I told her, ‘Enjoy it, go have fun, do some things you wouldn't normally do this time of year and enjoy it.' " LSU coach Les Miles had joked that he wanted the opportunity for Tammy to sneak a peek at the playbook, "I'm told Zach's mom was given the week off. We were hoping to get (a look at the playbook)!"
Even though Georgia held on for a 44-41 win, Mettenberger connected on 23-of-37 passes for 372 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Bulldogs would not allow any other opponent to gain over 270 aerial yards vs. them in any other 2013 contest and held eight opponents to under 200 yards passing during that schedule.
Mettenberger appeared in 30 games for Louisiana State, starting his final 25 contests…Also appeared in 12 games as the starting quarterback for Butler County College during his red-shirt freshman campaign…For his entire college career, Mettenberger gained 8,461 yards on 583-of-958 passes (60.86%) that included 67 touchdowns and only 19 interceptions…Scored twice on 147 carries and generated 8,024 yards in total offense through 42 contests…At Louisiana State, he completed 407-of-659 attempts (61.76%) for 5,783 yards, 35 touchdowns and fifteen interceptions, finishing with 5,470 yards in total offense, an average of 182.33 yards per game.
School Career-Record Results…Mettenberger ranks fifth in school history with 35 touchdown passes, topped by Tommy Hodson (69; 1986-89), JaMarcus Russell (52; 2004-06), Herb Tyler (40; 1995-98) and Matt Mauck (37; 2001-03)…Placed seventh on the LSU all-time list with 659 pass attempts and became the sixth player in school history to complete at least 400 passes…Also ranks sixth on the all-time chart with 5,783 yards passing and seventh with 5,470 yards in total offense…His pass completion percentage of .6176 is the third-best by a Tiger passer, ranking behind Alan Risher (.6195; 381-of-615; 1980-82) and JaMarcus Russell (.6186; 493- of-797; 2004-06). The only other Tiger to complete at least 60% of his attempts was Herb Tyler (.607; 434-of-715; 1995-98)…Averaged 192.77 yards passing per game, finishing behind Tommy Hodson (203.14 ypc; 8,938 in 44 games; 1986-89) and Josh Booty (197.55 ypg; 3,951 in 20 games; 1999-2000).
Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
The book on: QB Zach Mettenberger
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