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Thursday, January 17, 2013
Mailbag: In defense of Zach Mettenberger

By Gary Laney

We had such a great chat Tuesday that a bunch of questions remained unanswered when I ran out of time. I take some of them on here:

From Justin in St. Louis: When do you think people will finally realize that Zach Mettenberger is a good QB? In all the games I watched this season, when he was protected, he was on it. Also, when he's on, he's on. Example: Second half of the Alabama game.

Gary Laney: I also like Mettenberger Justin and will get called a homer by some for saying that. I do think there were issues with the passing game, but they were mostly systemic and sometimes resulted in Mettenberger's flaws sticking out more and made him sometimes take blame for things that weren't necessarily his fault.

Zach Mettenberger
All of the issues with LSU's passing game were not Zach Mettenberger's fault.
For example, I think his tendency to hold the ball and look indecisive and the receivers' tendency -- by their own admission -- to be inconsistent with route running go hand-in-hand. If there isn't trust that the receiver is going to be at the right place at the right time, a quarterback might get hesitant to just let go of the ball with confidence. So he holds it. And takes a sack. And looks bad.

At times, that kind of thing happened. At times, it was Mettenberger's fault. At times, he simply did not get adequate protection. Remember, the offensive line we thought would be protecting him played together for one game, the North Texas game. By season's end, three of the original five starters were out for significant games.

The other issue I don't think gets much appreciation is the shift of the offense from one that valued the quarterback's mobility with Jordan Jefferson to one that values a talented pocket passer. I think that adjustment contributed to some of the early route-running issues. It took until the Alabama game for all the elements to come together (until the poor Chick-fil-A Bowl outing).

G Money (Edinburgh, UK): Is Travin Dural going to bust out next season?

GL: He's big, he can run and he was catching everything in sight during August camp, then he suffered a season-ending knee injury and it was over.

I know LSU's coaches are impressed. If he bounces back from his injury physically and mentally and is the same player he was last August, I would think he's going to have ample opportunity to show that what he was showing in practice is something he can do on Saturdays too.

Bill (Fort Worth): How comparable was Clemson's speed to other teams LSU played this past season?

GL: Clemson is, to me, a little bit like Florida State in that it's located in SEC country and its recruiting base is in the heart of SEC country.

South Carolina is one of those state's that's always in the top 10 in per capita NFL player production.

So yeah, Clemson looks like an SEC team, same as Florida State. The ACC doesn't have the top-to-bottom athleticism of the SEC, but when you have programs in hotbed states like Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, well there are a lot of guys who can run in those states.

Greg (Chicago): I am tired of LSU losing top Louisiana players like Tim Williams to Alabama. What happened to the fence around Louisiana?

GL: I won't go so far as to LSU say didn't want Williams, but I don't think LSU is going to sweat losing him as much as it didn't like the taste of losing Landon Collins a year ago.

It would have been tough getting Williams bulked up enough for end and LSU simply doesn't have the stand-up end, 3-4 outside linebacker in its scheme. In that context, it makes sense for Williams to go to Alabama, saving LSU coaches the trouble of finding a way to properly utilize him and giving Williams his best chance to find a scheme he fits into.