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Stock Tips: Week 4

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Under the tutelage of Cam Cameron, LSU senior Zach Mettenberger is emerging as a promising quarterback prospect. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.
Under the tutelage of Cam Cameron, LSU senior Zach Mettenberger is emerging as a promising quarterback prospect. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.

If to your eyes gaudy numbers are a thing of beauty, look away. There’s nothing special for you to see here.

25-for-39, 380 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions.

A decent game perhaps for most quarterbacks. About half a day’s work for Derek Carr.

Those, though, were the final passing stats for Stanford’s Kevin Hogan and LSU’s Zach Mettenberger. Combined.

There’s nothing in these numbers that would suggest these two quarterbacks helped their draft stock in their respective wins Saturday night. But then playing quarterback in the NFL isn’t about compiling statistics. Ask Case Keenum or Timmy Chang.

That’s blasphemy to my brothers on the fantasy side of the site, but the real football reality is that quarterbacks are judged by more than their stat sheets. And there were things that Hogan and Zettenberger did on Saturday that NFL scouts should note.

Let’s start with Hogan, who was on the bench with a 39-7 lead when the fourth quarter began. Three series and three Arizona State touchdowns later, the Cardinal lead had been trimmed to 11 and Hogan had to go back to work.

Hogan, a redshirt junior who had won the first seven starts of his Stanford career, came off the bench and executed a nine-play drive that consumed 40 yards and 5:47 of game time before ending with a 24-yard field goal. During that drive, Hogan ran twice – for 27 yards on 2nd-and-17, and for five yards to put the ball on the 7-yard line for his placekicker. He didn’t throw a pass.

But Hogan’s mere presence (and the return to the field of a few other starters) was enough to calm the suddenly turbulent situation. In less than a calendar year as Stanford’s starting quarterback, he has become a leader, a guy who gets his team into the right play, makes the right throws and runs when he has to.

His completion percentage has dropped this year (to a perfectly reasonably 62.9%, down from an unsustainable 71.7% last year), but that’s because he’s running more of the offense this year, taking more shots down the field. Hogan’s resume – which already includes a Rose Bowl win and now five victories over ranked opponents – continues to grow. If he were to stay at Stanford for his senior season (if Andrew Luck stayed four years, everybody should stay four years), it’s not unrealistic to project him as the top quarterback prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft.

Then there’s Mettenberger, already a senior, whose career has hit a reset button with the arrival of Cam Cameron as LSU’s offensive coordinator. Fans and scouts alike have waited a long time to see from Mettenberger what he’s doing this season, and Saturday was another new entry in his ongoing rewrite.

On the first play of the second half, Mettenberger threw an interception. It was his 88th pass attempt of the season and his first pick.

Seven plays later, Auburn scored, and what was shaping up to be an LSU walkover was now a two-possession game with basically an entire half to play.

Mettenberger started the next drive with a completion. A few plays later, he completed his next attempt, though it was nullified by a holding penalty. Undaunted, Mettenberger on the next snap connected with Travis Dickson on a 45-yard completion, taking the ball to the Auburn 8. Next play, another completion.

To see Mettenberger rebound from his first pick with such poise had to register with scouts. He made a mistake, and he moved on.

In fact, you could read nothing in Mettenberger’s expression the entire night. Nothing that would suggest frustration during a few short-circuited first-half drives or after the interception. Nothing that suggested he even realized it was raining.

His composure screamed “confidence,” as if Mettenberger always knew exactly what he had to do next. That’s a factor of preparation, and all reports out of Baton Rouge indicate that he’s become a film junkie, as if he were studying under the wing of James Cameron instead of Cam.

Mettenberger looked every bit the part of a professional quarterback on Saturday. He’s 6-foot-5, 235 pounds with a big arm and an evolving football acumen. He may not make every throw (though he’s completing 64.8% of his attempts through four games), but he makes the ones that count – like the 32-yard TD to Jarvis Landry to open the fourth quarter, a strike down the deep middle of the Auburn defense on 3rd-and-8 after LSU’s lead had been trimmed to 28-14.

There are quarterbacks across the country whose names are higher on draft projection lists than Mettenberger’s. In some eyes, he’s not even among the top three quarterbacks in the SEC whose last name starts with an “M.”

He won’t finish with McCarron’s rings or Murray’s numbers or Manziel’s hardware. But Mettenberger’s best football is ahead of him.