Rivers making strides in LSU offense

When he takes snaps during quarterback drills, Stephen Rivers looks impossibly tall, like a basketball forward in football pads.

At 6-foot-7, 212 pounds and noticeably long-limbed, he doesn't drop back after receiving a center snap, he unfolds.

"And handing off, for most people, it's right there," he said, holding out a lanky right arm waist-high to mimic the motion of a quarterback handing the ball to a running back. "For me, I have to bend down more."

Those aspects of the LSU redshirt freshman quarterback's game will always look a bit unorthodox. With Arizona State's 6-foot-8 signal caller Brock Osweiler headed for the NFL draft, Rivers will be among the tallest QBs in college football next season.

In his first year at LSU last season, that lanky build had him portrayed as a down-the-road novelty. Rivers was the tall guy who, with Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson handling most of the game snaps and with Zach Mettenberger being groomed as their heir apparent, was somebody to think about later , along with fellow 2011 recruit Jerrard Randall.

But no longer can the little brother of NFL star Philip Rivers have that luxury. Jefferson and Lee have departed. Mettenberger has stepped up as the highly-anticipated new starter.

And who's one snap, one unfortunate injury away from becoming the starter?

That would probably be Rivers.

"I think Rivers is really progressing," LSU coach Les Miles said after last Saturday's scrimmage in which Rivers completed half of his 12 pass attempts, including one for a touchdown. "Randall is coming along. He has a really strong arm. He hasn't played in an offense like ours so it's going to take him some time."

That seems to indicate that Rivers currently has the edge for No. 2.

Teammates have noticed the progress of Rivers and Randall. Mettenberger said they have made considerable strides "not only learning the plays, but the whole system." The receivers talked about noticing steps forward in the maturation process.

"In the off-season, you've seen Stephen and Jerrard mature and really embrace the position like they are suppose to," said wide receiver Jarvis Landry, another member of the 2011 class. "They are making throws and becoming more of a student of the game. Some of that comes from the leadership of Zach and some of that comes from (quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe) in the meeting room. He's got those guys looking good this spring."

For Rivers, learning the LSU offense and tweaking his throwing mechanics have been two points of emphasis since his arrival in Baton Rouge.

Learning the playbook is something one might take for granted, but it isn't always the No. 1 priority for a true freshman.

"Last year, I was with the defense a lot with scout team, so I've gotten a lot more playbook in (this spring)," the Athens, Ala., native said.

He's also done a lot of work with Kragthorpe on improving his footwork and a passing delivery he said was not the most efficient, especially considering his height.

"Coach Kragthorpe and I agreed that due to my feet and hips, sometimes I was too low," Rivers said. "I wasn't using my height to my advantage fully. Now I feel like my release is higher."

Kragthorpe isn't the only quarterback expert Rivers gets guidance from. He said he speaks, "or at least we text," every day with his brother, the star quarterback of the San Diego Chargers.

Whether all of that guidance and work has made him game ready if something were to happen to Mettenberger is yet to be seen. And while the 6-foot-1 Randall does not have the length of Rivers, his mobility could make him a threat to be the No. 2 quarterback in August.

Regardless, Rivers said he said he will be prepared to play in the fall.

"I'm going to be just as prepared as Zach is going into a game," he said. "Because, like you say, 'One snap away,' and all that. I have an urgency to be prepared if something were to happen to Zach, that it doesn't fall off any, it stays the same."