August 2, 2012; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger (8) during the fall camp practice at the Charles McClendon Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
A fair amount of the optimism surrounding this fall's LSU Tigers is the theoretical improvement in quarterbacking play that we'll see with Zach Mettenberger under center. Last year's duo wasn't spectacular, and the team's complete inability to throw the ball against Alabama doomed it in the BCS National Championship Game. It would have brought them down against the Tide in November as well had Bama made more field goals.
If Mettenberger can live up to the promise he showed when he was neck-and-neck with Aaron Murray in spring practice as a freshman at Georgia, then yes, LSU will experience better quarterbacking play. However, it's probably not going to be as simple as him running the same stuff Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson did but with more precision and effectiveness. He could do that, but it would be a waste of his talent and a tactical error.
The bigger deal about Mettenberger is that his assumed greater ability as a pocket passer will allow Greg Studrawa to ask more from the quarterback position. Largely, last year's offense was based on the run with the quarterback's role being more about efficiency than playmaking. Ideally, with Mettenberger's howitzer of an arm and better overall talent, the team can open up the passing attack a bit more.
The LSU offense last year was not too far off from Tresselball, in that it was a "you know what I'm doing, but you can't stop it" kind of deal. It worked because most teams couldn't stop it, as the Tigers had more size, speed, and talent than nearly every defense they faced. When they didn't have that advantage in the two Alabama games, the results were ugly. Mettenberger's presence in the pocket should allow for a more complex offense to whatever extent the coaches want to complicate things.
I don't know if we'll ever see a Les Miles team run a sophisticated passing attack that would put Bill Walsh to shame. That's not Miles's style, and he certainly won't need that sort of thing this fall with four excellent running backs in the rotation. He could run the same passing attack as last year's and easily be fine in 11 of his games.
It's that twelfth game on November 3 where things get dicey. The LSU quarterback has to try to do more than what it did last year. If we're all correct about Mettenberger, then that LSU quarterback will be able to do it well.