HOOVER, Ala. - Zach Mettenberger, late of Georgia and now entrenched at LSU, was at SEC media days last year, when he was slightly reserved and reluctant to make news. He was almost wide-eyed.
Not this time around.
He took a shot at Tim Tebow. ("It's not like I'm like Tim Tebow and have bad mechanics.")
He took a shot at reporters - to their face. ("You guys are funny with preseason rankings. Last I checked, none of you have gotten a preseason ranking right.")
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He joked about the reception he'll get from Georgia fans on Sept. 28. ("They're gonna boo the crap out of me.")
And he got a bit chesty - at unnamed fellow players - when asked what LSU tells its players about social media. ("Don't be an idiot. ... I think it's pretty self-explanatory. Don't tweet anything if your mother or grandmother don't want you tweeting it. If more guys could live by that rule, or just think before they hit send, Twitter would be so much better, and you wouldn't see so much of these guys in the media making a fool of themself on Twitter.")
Mettenberger didn't really come off as cocky. He was just more relaxed and comfortable in his own skin.
He was up front about the mental challenge that awaits when he and the Tigers come to Athens. He said he always thought he would "play between the hedges, and now it's just in a different color uniform." He was dismissed after spring practice in 2010, following a couple off-field incidents.
"It can be easy for someone to let themselves ... I mean I don't know anybody that's had to go back and play the team they got kicked off of," Mettenberger said. "But it can be easy for myself to (try to) go out there and throw for 500 yards and eight touchdowns. But you can't force that. You've just got to play within yourself and put the ball in a playmaker's hands, and trust that the coach will make the right call at the right time."
Mettenberger was also smart about what he said. At one point, on the subject of the great quarterbacks in the SEC, he was asked if he had to think of himself on their level, and have an ego about it. In other words, Mettenberger was being invited to say he belongs in the conversation with Manziel, Murray and McCarron.
He didn't quite take the bait.
"I mean this league is different," he said. "It's usually been a league of great running games and great defenses. But I don't know, the evolving game of football, this league is evolving as well. I guess the Pac-12 is no longer the quarterback conference, the SEC is now. It's gonna be fun going out there and competing with a lot of guys I know. Just seeing how much talent is at the quarterback position in the SEC."
The week leading up to the game will be an interesting one. Mettenberger's mother Tammy still works in the UGA football administrative offices. (Asked if it was true his mom wears purple and gold to the office, Zach issued a correction: "Yeah not every day. Sometimes she does.")
Georgia head coach Mark Richt was asked Thursday if he was going to give "your secretary" a week off before the game.
"They're not called secretaries, they're administrative assistants, by the way, just so you know that," Richt answered, smiling. "She's been with us longer than I've been at Georgia. She's a mainstay there. If she wants to take a week off prior to that, we might work that out. We know her, we love her, and trust her. But I know she loves her boy, that's for sure."