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March 29, 2012

Making progress

There is no doubt that LSU redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen Rivers has the proper pedigree.

His older brother Philip has been the starting quarterback for the San Diego Chargers for the last six seasons. During that time, Philip has made four Pro Bowl appearances. He has completed 64 percent of his NFL passes for more than 24,000 yards and 163 touchdowns with just 78 interceptions.

Moreover, Philip was a four-year starting quarterback at North Carolina State. In his career with the Wolfpack, Philip completed 64 percent of his passes for more than 13,000 yards and 95 touchdowns with 34 interceptions.

Eleven years younger than Philip, Stephen is just embarking upon his college career with the Tigers. After redshirting in 2011, Stephen Rivers is solidly entrenched as the No. 2 LSU quarterback behind Zach Mettenberger.

Having been around a high level of football for his entire life, Rivers understands the importance of the backup quarterback.

"It is always important for a team to have a backup it can depend on," Rivers said. "I have to let the coaches know I am ready to go. I have to be of that mindset that I have to be as prepared as Zach. Spring practice has been very important for me."

Rivers was a solid, but not outstanding, quarterback prospect coming out of Athens (Ala.) High School. In his final two high school campaigns, Rivers passed for more than 3,200 yards and 35 touchdowns. Reports from spring practice indicate that Rivers has made great strides since joining the program.

"At the beginning of practice last year, I was just watching the offense," Rivers said. "It was good that I got to see two senior quarterbacks and Zach, who was just learning. They were smooth in everything they did. For the second half of last season, I was the scout team quarterback.

"I got to look at a bunch of different coverages. Our defense does more than most teams. So, that was good for me. I am way better since I first got here. I was like a deer in headlights then. My mechanics are stronger and my throwing motion is a little better. But, I still have a ways to go."

Of course, Rivers has as good a mentor as any quarterback in college football with his brother. Stephen and Philip have almost daily conversations.

"First, I watch all of (Phillip's) games and I catch a lot of stuff there," Stephen said. "We talk about every day. Now, he'll talk to me after every practice. In high school, he would call me after games.

"When we talk, it's not just general things. We talk about the coverages I saw and what I did against them. I have been living around football my whole life seeing Philip play and with my dad (Steve) coaching.

"I have watched football since I could understand it. I feel like I can always go to Phillip. You want to know as much as you can."

Stephen has the same unorthodox throwing motion as Philip. Both quarterbacks have more of a sidearm delivery. Phillip is tall (6-foot-5) as is Stephen (6-foot-7).

"We look pretty similar throwing the ball," Stephen said. "I was taught to throw like that. I know for a fact that my motion is higher right now. My arm is a little long when I throw.

"I am also working on my feet. We talked about that last week. Philip told me that when I step up in the pocket, I have to take short strides. I am working on my footsteps now at practice."

Rivers acknowledged that practice repetitions will speed up his development.

"I was hopping in there the first time I was doing stuff this spring," Rivers. Sometimes, my head gets pinning. But, spring has been going good. I feel smoother and more comfortable with everything I am doing. All I need is time."

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