The LSU Tigers have no problem recruiting.
Year after year, five-star recruits keep the Bayou Bengals pipeline flowing.
Head coach Les Miles continually restocks his defence with studs from Florida to Texas and everywhere in between. But while the success building a dominating stop unit has the Tigers in the national title picture every season, the talent of the offensive side of the ball has left much to be desired.
Sure, Miles has pumped out players like Stevan Ridley and Rueben Randle over the past two seasons, but playmakers have been few and far between. Add in offensive line issues this season, and chinks in the Tigers’ armour are popping up with regularity.
But no misstep has been as big and as glaring as the one under centre.
Last season, Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee led the Tigers to the national championship game, where they were dismantled by an Alabama Crimson Tide team they had beaten earlier in the season.
It wasn’t a fluke. Jefferson had been anointed the starter and he was exposed by a good Crimson Tide defence that knew Jefferson couldn’t beat them deep and wasn’t accurate enough to pick them apart underneath, so they stacked eight — and sometimes nine — men in the box and bottled up the run.
The blueprint was written and this season has been no different with Zach Mettenberger at the helm.
The fact Mettenberger is the Tigers best option falls squarely on the shoulders of Miles and the program’s talent evaluators. They handpicked the former Georgia Bulldog.
After the ’Dawgs punted the 6-foot-5, 230-pounder following the 2009 season for a violation of team rules, Mettenberger toiled at Butler Community College for a season while soliciting offers from a handful of top programs.
The Tigers pursuit of Mettenberger turned off other blue-chip recruits, who realized there was no clear path to a starting gig with Mettenberger having two years of eligibility remaining heading into 2012.
One of those recruits can already be classified as a whiff of epic proportions.
His name? Teddy Bridgewater.
Coming out of Miami Northwestern high school in 2011, Bridgewater was thought to be a lock to stay in-state at the University of Miami.
When that commitment fell through, Bridgewater started looking at his options nationally, and LSU was near the top of the list.
Mettenberger’s transfer changed all that and Bridgewater ended up at Louisville, where he has led the 10th-ranked Cardinals to an 8-0 record in his sophomore season after taking over the starting gig midway through his freshman campaign.
With Bridgewater, LSU could be considered a legit contender. With Mettenberger, they’re nothing more than a pretender.