HOOVER, Ala. — Many recruiting analysts painted Zach Mettenberger as LSU’s next starting quarterback when the former Georgia player signed with the Tigers last December.
The ex-Oconee County star may eventually win the starting job, but it doesn’t appear that will happen soon.
LSU coach Les Miles and center T-Bob Hebert both made strong statements of support for senior Jordan Jefferson as the Tigers’ starter on Friday at Southeastern Conference media days.
In fact, Miles ranked Mettenberger behind veterans Jefferson and Jarrett Lee when asked about the former Bulldog, who spent last season at Butler Community College after Mark Richt kicked him off Georgia’s team last summer.
“We will play that guy that gives us the greatest opportunity of victory,” Miles said. “Right now, I believe that would be Jefferson.”
Although Jefferson helmed an offense that ranked 102nd in the nation in passing yards per game last year, he solidified his spot atop the depth chart in the spring,
winning the team award for leadership, effort and performance at the conclusion of spring drills.
Hebert admitted that many believed Mettenberger was brought in to take Jefferson’s job, but it hasn’t happened yet.
“That’s definitely how I feel like a lot of people were thinking,” Hebert said. “Maybe that put pressure on Jordan, I don’t know, but he rose to the occasion and he really flourished during the spring and played exceptionally well. That’s not to say that Jared or Zach didn’t play great, because they did, too, but I think everybody’s happy with the situation.”
Jefferson said the consistent criticism he has faced throughout his career has been good motivation, as has the clean slate he received when Miles hired a new offensive coordinator, former Louisville head coach Steve Kragthorpe, after last season.
“You always hear criticism, but it also motivates you,” Jefferson said. “It helps me work out harder, but at the same time, it helps me improve what people feel I lack at. I work at the things people say I lack at and hopefully I can prove them wrong.”
As for Mettenberger, he has plenty of time to win playing time before his career ends. He has three years of eligibility remaining after leaving Butler, where he passed for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns and led the team to the national junior college finals.
“(Mettenberger is) doing really well under coach Kragthorpe, but he’s also a younger guy,” Hebert said. “Jordan’s a senior and that kind of shows. He’s accomplished, he’s talented, he’s ready to go. I think he’s gonna be successful.”
He said what?
James Franklin hasn’t coached a game at Vanderbilt, but he shows no shortage of confidence in what he can accomplish in Nashville.
Franklin even made a bold prediction about future recruiting success at Vandy — the least successful program in the league by football tradition and the SEC’s powerhouse by academic standards — that seemed fairly ridiculous on its face.
“We have an opportunity to do something really special at Vanderbilt. We have an opportunity to differentiate ourselves,” Franklin said. “I really believe there’s very few schools that are going to be able to compete with us when it comes to recruiting because we have an opportunity to offer things that very few schools can.”
But while Vanderbilt’s lofty academic standards will prevent Franklin’s staff from ever landing a top-ranked recruiting class, his ability to sell the university is already turning heads.
Earlier this month, Franklin landed a commitment from four-star Memphis running back Brian Kimbrow — the Commodores have signed only three four-star players since 2002 — and has verbal pledges from two of the top seven players on Rivals.com’s list of Tennessee’s top prospects.
Franklin attributes that success to the educational, cultural and competitive opportunities available at Vanderbilt.
An opportunity for top prospects to play immediately doesn’t hurt, either.
“We can offer that,” Franklin admitted. “We have some good players, we just don’t have enough of them.”
In Starkville, Miss., “What have you done for me lately?” appears to be the phrase that matters in Mississippi State’s Egg Bowl rivalry with Ole Miss.
Mississippi State trails its in-state rival in the Egg Bowl by nearly 20 wins all time, and the schools have split the last five Egg Bowls. But Dan Mullen is 2-0 against Ole Miss since taking over at State and the Bulldogs have taken great pleasure in gigging their rivals about that recent success.
Mullen and the university have aggressively tried to stake their claim on the Magnolia State, going so far as to purchase interstate billboards at Mississippi’s borders showing Mullen with his arm raised in victory along with the slogan “Welcome to our state.”
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said the Bulldog hubris doesn’t bother him, but his body language indicated that answering questions about back-to-back losses to a rival agitates him.
“It’s all about winning, the bottom line,” Nutt said, reminding media members that his 2008 Rebels won 45-0 in his first Egg Bowl as coach. “And the reason they’re loud right now is they’ve won the last two years.”
“I understand how passionate our fans are about that ballgame. That’s a real, real intense rival. I understand that,” Nutt added later. “Our fans have to live with it for one full year. So the last two years, it’s been difficult.”