It didn’t take very long. After all, the Tigers didn’t run many offensive plays.
But Miles said Wednesday that LSU has learned from the 21-0 loss to Alabama, and expects to be better on offense this fall thanks to a veteran offensive line, four experienced running backs and new starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
Miles says Mettenberger can “make all the throws” and should allow the offense to be more balanced than last season, when the Tigers had to rely on their running game and punishing defense. But the eighth-year LSU coach isn’t expecting heroics from the 6-foot-5, 222-pound quarterback. Just solid, consistent play.
“It’s going to be more of a learning curve,” Miles said. The good news is he’s not a young quarterback. He’s had time. He’s had a full junior college slate and been with us for a year in transition. Now it looks to me that he’s kind of ready to go to the field.”
LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said the team’s relationship with Mettenberger has grown strong through the offseason. He doesn’t hesitate when asked how good Mettenberger could be this season.
“There are not too many quarterbacks I’ve seen who throw the ball like Zach does,” Beckham said. “That’s just the way he is. He’ll have any kind of year he wants to have. I tell him all the time, ‘You’re (an NFL) first-rounder. You’re incredible.”
The Tigers had a dream season until a nightmarish offensive performance against Alabama in the BCS championship game. LSU gained just 92 total yards in the loss. Quarterback play was spotty all season, with Mettenberger buried on the depth chart behind Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.
But Mettenberger understood why Miles stuck with the seniors.
“We were 13-0” at one point, Mettenberger said. “It’s hard to throw in the third-string guy when you’re winning ballgames and being successful. At no point last year did I think I should be playing. I wanted to play. That’s what you want to do as a competitor, but our offense was in good hands.”
Now it’s his turn. And his ability to throw deep passes should give LSU’s offense an extra dimension.
Mettenberger’s journey to a starting quarterback role hasn’t been without controversy. The former Georgia player was dismissed from the team in 2009 after being arrested and later pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery.
He transferred to Butler (Kan.) Community College and played for a season before transferring to LSU last year. He played in five games while backing up Jefferson and Lee, going 8-of-11 for 92 yards and a touchdown.
“I definitely took the path less taken, you could say,” Mettenberger said. “But I’m finally here. It’s my chance. It’s my opportunity and I’m going to try to make the most of it. I’ve got a lot of great teammates around me and that’s going to help me out and make my job a lot easier.”
The LSU defense is expected to be very good again. The secondary is led by safety Eric Reid and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.
Mathieu’s nickname, the “Honey Badger,” became nationally known as his penchant for big plays dominated SEC highlights. He returned two punts and two fumble recoveries for touchdowns, on top of making 76 tackles, including 7½ for a loss.