HOOVER - Zach Mettenberger's didn't plan it like this. If he was going to play at LSU's Tiger Stadium, he would do it wearing a Georgia uniform. After all, he was a Georgia boy.
LSU quaterback Zach Mettenberger
But fate changed everything.
Mettenberger signed with Georgia in 2009 but was booted off the team before he played a game. He transferred to Butler (Kan.) Community College, signed with LSU and spent last season as the No. 3 quarterback.
Now his time has come. His troubles behind him, he is LSU's starting quarterback. And he has no bigger supporter than LSU coach Les Miles.
"I think Zach Mettenberger is going to give us a really nice quarterback Miles said Wednesday at Southeastern Conference Media Days. "The things that he's done in leadership, the approach he's taken with this team have been very obvious. The good news is he's not a young quarterback. That's why he's here. He's had time."
Wide receiver Odell Beckham said Mettenberger long ago won over his teammates.
"You can just see it in his eyes," Beckham said. "He's ready. He has already established himself as a leader of this team. He's ready to lead us. He was a little uneasy about all this today, but he handled it like he handles everything."
YES, HE REALLY SAID IT: Asked about his dismal 0-12 record against the top four teams in the SEC West, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen managed to turn it into talk of a national championship. For Mississippi State.
"I mean, we've had the opportunity to beat every one of those teams, right down to the fourth quarter, last plays of the game," Mullen said. "The big difference for us is we have to make those game-winning plays. We have to have guys step up and make those game-winning plays.
"I think three of those teams have won the national championship.:
When you look, the great thing I guess in our program, the SEC West, we're not far off from there, which means we're not far off from the
There you have it.
CHANGES FOR SAFETY: The new kickoff rules have been much-discussed. Kickoffs will come from the 35 instead of the 30. The ball will be placed on the 25 after touchbacks instead of the 20. But Steve Shaw, the SEC coordinator of officials, talked about two rules Wednesday that have not been publicized.
On onsides kicks, if the ball bounces just once, the receiving team has to be given an opportunity to catch it before being hit. That means you won't see those kinds of onsides kicks often if at all.
Another rule Shaw discussed requires that a player who loses a helmet must leave the game for one play unless it is caused by a foul on the opposing team.
Both rules, Shaw said, are in the interest of player safety.
CHIZIK SAYS BEWARE OF NEWCOMERS: Auburn coach Gene Chizik said the notion that Missouri and Texas A&M can't compete in the SEC is misguided. He coached against both while head coach for two seasons at Iowa State and defensive coordinator at Texas for two seasons.
"(Missouri coach) Gary Pinkel is one of the best football coaches in the country," Muschamp said. "Missouri and Texas A&M aren't coming into the SEC with their hat in their hand saying 'Thank you for letting ups be here.' They are coming in here to compete and play their tails off on the football field. You can bank on that one."
IT'S ABOUT WINNING: Sometimes, reporters seem genuinely surprised that players on other teams have not bought into the notion of Alabama and LSU invincibility.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson was asked Wednesday how the Razorbacks can get around those two to the top of the West. The answer, he said, is not complicated.
Today I’ve been continually asked, ‘How do you leapfrog Alabama and LSU?’" Wilson said. "Well you have to beat them. I think our players understand that. We have both of those guys at our home place this year. I’ve said this a number of times, too. We have 80,000 people cheering for us rather than against us, and it’s a lot easier to make an audible call and get our guys into a better situation to win when you’re in that environment as opposed to the other.
"We lost two games last year. It was to those two guys, and we have them in our place this year. I think it bodes well with us.”
NO IMAGE PROBLEM: Auburn wide receiver Emory Blake dismissed the notion that some well-publicized off-field issues have hurt Auburn's image.
"A whole group of guys shouldn't be questioned because of two or three guys," Blake said. "We're not a group of thugs or anything like that."