LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger entered the 2012 campaign with the pressure of resurrecting an LSU offense that had been remarkably one-dimensional ever since former Tiger quarterback Ryan Perrilloux was dismissed prior to the 2008 season.
Instead of being the downfield threat he was touted to be, Mettenberger looked a lot like predecessors Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee—capable, but inconsistent.
With only five returning starters on the defensive side of the ball and six defensive players bolting Baton Rouge early, it's likely that the Tigers will have to rely more on the offense once toe meets leather in Cowboys Stadium vs. TCU on Aug. 31.
That puts all of the pressure on Mettenberger to live up to the hype.
Can he do it? Absolutely.
He completed 62 percent of his passes during the month of November, tossing for more than 215 yards in each of those contests. One of those games was against Alabama, which finished the season with the top pass defense in the SEC (173.6 YPG).
Sure, he closed the season on a down note in the 23-22 loss to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but the rising senior showed flashes of what he is capable of down the stretch in 2012.
That bodes well for 2013, considering the offense should get a kick start from new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
Cameron may be more of a punch line than a point of pride after he was unceremoniously fired by the Baltimore Ravens in 2012 in the middle of their Super Bowl season. However, Cameron brings a tremendous resume of success developing quarterbacks with him to Baton Rouge, including time spent with Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Gus Frerotte and Trent Green at the NFL level.
Is he the greatest offensive football mind in the world? Probably not, but he's certainly an improvement from Greg Studrawa, who was thrust into the offensive coordinator role at LSU shortly before the 2011 season.
With all of the weapons LSU has coming back with him on the offensive side of the ball this season, the combination of Mettenberger and Cameron should be able to get the Tigers to the next level.
Mettenberger will have his top four receivers returning next year in Odell Beckham, Jr., Jarvis Landry, Kadron Boone and James Wright. The four players combined for 1,876 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and another offseason of work will help them become more comfortable with Mettenberger.
He also will have plenty of help up front.
Four players—Josh Williford, Trai Turner, Vadal Alexander and La'el Collins—all saw significant action along the offensive line in 2012. Continuity is key for any offensive line, and however the line shakes out, the experience and familiarity with each other will be huge for the entire Tiger offense.
Plus, the return of leading rusher Jeremy Hill and backups Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue will make the Tiger running game stout yet again. After all, a quarterback's best friend is an effective running game.
Don't count out Mettenberger just yet. Sure, 2012 was a disappointment, but the chips are falling in his favor this offseason. He may finally live up to the hype in 2013.
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