Most improved players in college football

Following an underwhelming junior season, Zach Mettenberger has exploded in 2013. Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The narrative for LSU football in recent years had been something to the effect of: Average offense tries to score enough points to prevent screwing it up for a defense with future NFL stars all over the field.

The quarterback position, in particular, had become a revolving door of futility, and whatever hope had been invested into Georgia transfer Zach Mettenberger had all but evaporated by this time last season.

A funny thing happened, however, sometime after the point when many already had written off Mettenberger.

“He has played as well as any quarterback in the league,” one SEC assistant told me this week.

That’s a pretty incredible statement, considering this is the best crop of quarterbacks the conference has seen in years. But it’s accurate. Mettenberger has stacked up with veterans such as Alabama's AJ McCarron and Georgia's Aaron Murray -- whom Mettenberger once battled with for the UGA job -- and newer stars such as Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel.

It's why Mettenberger, who ranked 98th in QBR a year ago and currently sits fifth this season, leads a short list of college football’s most improved players in 2013.