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Insider

Countdown to camp: Is Rivers ready?

7/10/2012

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 nightmare scenario for most LSU fans this fall involves quarterback Zach Mettenberger not living up to his much-hyped expectations.

What if he's just ordinary? What if Mettenberger, despite his looks-the-part 6-foot-5 frame and rifle arm, isn't the trigger man that will turn the Tigers' offense from something that just tries to stay out of the way of the defense and special teams into an explosive force?

The typical Tiger fan shudders to think.

But what they don't talk about -- perhaps are even afraid to think of -- is this, even more daunting scenario: What if something happens to their (if all goes well) Mett-siah?

If Mettenberger gets hurt or in trouble, LSU is back to 2008, the year the dismissal of Ryan Perrilloux from the team left LSU with a walk-on (Andrew Hatch, a transfer from Harvard) and two freshmen (redshirt Jarrett Lee and true freshman Jordan Jefferson) at the position.

All three had turns under center and the Tigers struggled with turnovers en route to a five-loss season, the worst season of the Les Miles era.

This year, LSU is an injury away from having to turn to redshirt freshman Stephen Rivers as the replacement. One of two quarterbacks in the 2011 signing class, Rivers emerged in the spring as the clear No. 2 quarterback ahead of recruiting classmate Jerrard Randall, another redshirt freshman.

He may have beaten out Randall, but is he ready to run an SEC offense?

At 6-foot-7 with long, lanky arms, Rivers looks more like a small forward than a quarterback. At times, the word "awkward" might be appropriate.

On the positive side, he also made great strides during the spring. His accuracy improved. His footwork got better. He grasped the offense.

And, as the brother of NFL quarterback Phillip Rivers, he is not a fish out of water. There are plenty of resources both at LSU and within his family that might allow him to mature into his role at a rapid pace.

But don't completely write off Randall. With Rivers getting the lion's share of the snaps with the second team at LSU's spring game, it's easy to forget Randall was generally considered a four-star prsopect and was an ESPN150 member as a high school senior while Rivers was a three-star prospect not in the 150. Miles commented that Randall struggled some with grasping an LSU offense that's vastly different from the one he ran in high school.

"He hasn't played in an offense like ours," Miles said, "so it's going to take him some time."

If Randall figures out the offense, he has the tools to make the backup position a heated battle that could push both to get better.

Either way, LSU fans are hoping they won't have to check on their progress because one of them is starting instead of an injured Mettenberger this season