Zach Mettenberger isn't entering spring practice simply hoping to be competitive in the battle to become Georgia's starting quarterback.
He can envision himself winning the job.
"Yes sir," said the former Oconee County standout, eyes focused straight ahead.
He'll soon get his chance.
When the Bulldogs kick off spring practice March 4, Mettenberger, along with Logan Gray and Aaron Murray will each be on equal footing with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who will determine which of the three lines up under center in the season-opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Could Mettenberger be that man?
Although it's been assumed by some that Murray would ascend to the starting role following a stellar career at Plant High in Tampa, Fla., many forget that Mettenberger also attended the Elite 11 camp, and was considered one of the nation's better prep quarterbacks from 2009.
Blessed with a huge right arm, Mettenberger has no trouble chunking the football 70 yards down the field, although the 6-foot-5, 237-pounder has had to overcome the stigma that he's not an accurate passer and that his footwork leaves a little to be desired.
While Mettenberger agrees that may have once been true, he says that's no longer the case.
"I've never felt I was an inaccurate passer. People have also said I'm a gunslinger, but that' also inaccurate," he said. "I definitely feel I can throw as good and as accurate as anybody. It all goes back to my footwork, but I feel my footwork has gotten just as good as the other guys, if not better."
His knowledge of the Bulldogs' offense is also something Mettenberger hopes will give him an edge.
Along with Murray, Mettenberger enrolled early in 2009 and has now been in the system for a year.
"I have a good grasp of the offense now," he said. "I know what I'm doing out there, so it's a lot easier to just go out and play pitch and catch with my receivers."
But even if he, Murray or Gray have questions, a solid group of offensive veterans is a benefit each can rely.
"We've got 10 other guys who are returning starters. Our offensive line has been starting for three years, and (Clint) Boling and (Ben) Jones know the offense as well as Coach (Stacy) Searels)," Mettenberger said. "If Aaron or I are having trouble, Clint can tell us the different audible, who to check to and who to declare. Having mature guys like that around helps a lot."
However, when it comes to actually winning the starting job, Mettenberger said it will boil down to two things - leadership and familiarity with the system.
Mettenberger believes he possess both important traits.
"I think overall leadership. Who will be the quarterback that the guys gravitate toward and follow as someone who can lead us to Promised Land?" he said. "But also, it's going to be who knows the playbook the best because we're (quarterbacks) going to need to be as smart as we can."
Mettenberger believes he's "10-times" the quarterback he was when he first arrived on campus in January of 2009.
"I'm night and day from where I was," he said. "I've always come in and worked my tail off. I've never been a slacker, and now my body is starting to mature, I've got that grasp of the offense and the timing down with my receivers. I feel like I've picked up the speed of the game and I feel great, but we won't really know until spring and we put the pads on."
Once that happens, it will be all about impressing Bobo and head coach Mark Richt.
As Mettenberger puts it, that will be the biggest challenge of all.
"It's definitely a big spring for all three quarterbacks because you're talking about determining who will be leading this team for the next couple of years," Mettenberger said. "We're all pushing each other to be the best we can and whatever happens, happens. We're still going to be friends to the end and Coach Bobo is going to decide."
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