- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Zach Mettenberger has picked up a lot of different playbooks during his college career. He doesn't collect them out of habit, he's just dealt with his fair share of different offensive coordinators since his one season at Georgia in 2010.
He was handed another this spring when Cam Cameron replaced Greg Studrawa as LSU's offensive coordinator. It sounds like it could be a little bit of an annoyance to have to learn and change so much while trying to master the sport's most important and scrutinized position, but Mettenberger has appreciated the chaos.
"If you look at the NFL, it's like a carousel of offensive coordinators that come through (for teams). If I am fortunate enough to play in the NFL, this is a chance to get me prepared for that," said Mettenberger, who passed for 2,609 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year. "There's been a lot of studying and getting used to new playbooks and whatnot, but I've definitely embraced that challenge and enjoy it."
For playing such a high-pressure position at one of the nation's most high-profile programs, Mettenberger displays quite the cool demeanor. Facade or not, Mettenberger looks more comfortable now than he did during the early part of his first season as LSU's starter. Back then, he was struggling to maneuver his way through LSU's offense. His inconsistent play held the offense back at times, as he saw his completion percentage fluctuate between 77 and 37 percent through the first two months of the season.
He failed to pass for 200 yards in consecutive games through that stretch and threw seven touchdowns to four interceptions.
But when November arrived, Mettenberger became a new player, passing for 200 yards in all four of LSU's games that month. His comfort level continued to rise and his chemistry with players improved. There was no special formula, Mettenberger said. He just had to be patient and continue the learning process.
Now, Mettenberger will enter the 2013 season without hesitation about his ability. His confidence pushed him through yet another spring with a new offensive coordinator. With all of his receiving weapons returning, Mettenberger expects to have a much more productive second year as LSU's starter.
"I'm just more comfortable," he said. "You can't tell? I'm more loose, not as nervous. I learned a lot of tough lessons last year, but also a lot of good ones. The ups and downs of the college football season are some things that I'm more prepared for and ready to take on."
Mettenberger knows that with Cameron aboard, his arm will get used even more this fall. He knows his strength is throwing downfield, and he hopes to unleash that more against his SEC foes.
"There were a lot of chances [downfield] that we had last year that we missed," Mettenberger said. "You can trust me when I say that that's been one of our main priorities in getting better at this offseason."
He also knows that everyone will be watching. For so long people have waited for more of a downfield passing game from LSU, and Mettenberger was supposed to shepherd that process. The wait is over, and in a pressure cooker like the SEC, it's time for Mettenberger to prove himself as he looks to cement his legacy with the Tigers.
"You're either a winner or a loser," he said. "In this day and age it's what you can do for me and I want to go out on top and lead us to a great season and hopefully I can leave LSU with a national championship."
9dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough