GeauxTigerNation writers David Helman and Gary Laney break down the competitions, issues and talking points of LSU's August camp. Players report to campus Aug. 1 and we'll have a preview segment every weekday in July leading up to the day the players report:
The Tiger Stadium crowd at LSU's spring game seemed to hang with Zach Mettenberger's every move.
When he launched perfect bombs of 49 and 53 yards to Odell Beckham, Jr. the 33,000 fans howled not just with delight, but relief that the Tigers have a guy who can make those throws.
When he threw an indecisive pass into the end zone that was intercepted by safety Ronald Martin, the stadium groaned, not just a disapproval of a single bad play, but out of fear that it might be a habit with the new guy under center.
Quarterbacks always draw disproportionate scrutiny. But for the strong-armed Mettenberger, August camp, like the spring, will have him under a microscope perhaps unlike any other quarterback who has yet to start a college game.
Tiger Nation knows LSU needs a big-time passer, the one thing that it lacked in last year's 13-1 run to the BCS championship game. They think that quarterback might be Mettenberger, the Blinn Junior College transfer who started his career at Georgia, got kicked off the team and was exiled for a year at Blinn before spending his sophomore season in 2011 as a backup to Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee -- two, shall we say, limited seniors for LSU.
Mettenberger, who played sparingly a season ago, has to be better than those two, right? At first blush in the spring, Mettenberger appeared to be everything last year's pair was not.
Unlike Lee, he's big (6-foot-5) and has a huge arm. Unlike Jefferson, his passes tend to be accurate. Not since JaMarcus Russell have the Tigers had a quarterback who seems so complete with physical gifts as a passer.
In that 14-for-25, 271-yard spring game performance, he showed flashes of brilliance, particularly with an ability to throw the deep ball that had his coach beaming.
"We'll challenge anybody that plays a single high (safety) coverage against us," Les Miles said.
Which means no more trying force runs into an eight-man front to try to break the will of defenses bent on stopping LSU's run game. This year, Miles promised, defenses that stack the run will be made to pay by the big, right-arm of Mettenberger.
Theoretically, that will give the Tigers offensive balance and, perhaps, the one piece of the formula LSU missed in falling short last season.
But how about his two spring game interceptions? Did the Tigers trade in one problem for another?
You can fault Lee and Jefferson for a lot, but not for turnovers. The pair combined for just five interceptions in 267 attempts last season. Mettenberger had two in 24 attempts in the spring game.
Perhaps it was a sign of trouble. Maybe it was an anomaly. Maybe it's the price you pay for having a QB with an arm worth gambling with.
Mettenberger will show us this fall. And LSU fans will be hanging on his every throw.