I lived in Gainesville, Florida when Tim Tebow returned for his senior season after winning the Heisman Trophy and two national championships. I was at SEC Media Days when Johnny Manziel mania swept Hoover, Alabama by storm after he brought the stiff-arm trophy home. I recall when Jameis Winston came back for another tour of duty in Tallahassee.
Our most recent Heisman winner isn’t getting quite the same summer accolade tour.
Lamar Jackson is returning for another season, and the lack of buzz is just odd.
Typically, a Heisman winner’s return would mean a hype train barreling off the rails. That’s not exactly the case, in part thanks to how last season ended.
Louisville’s season came crashing down against a mean Houston defensive line. Jackson’s three picks and fumble didn’t help in a loss to Kentucky. LSU’s blinding defensive speed wasn’t a tea party, either.
(Meanwhile, Louisville’s offensive line was a mess, Jackson’s WRs dropped an astounding number of passes, and the Cardinals lost a statistically unlikely number of fumbles. There’s reason to expect all of those things to improve in Jackson’s favor this season.)
Perhaps because of last year’s ending, the media isn’t gassing him up. Quite the opposite.
ESPN’s Todd McShay ranks Jackson as the sixth best QB in this year’s draft class. He’s behind draftnik darling Josh Allen of Wyoming and has almost the same grade as Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald.
Our own mock draft had Jackson fifth among QBs, back in April.
(And no matter what Jackson does on the field, you can expect our old friend Anonymous NFL Scout to come with the yearly present of coded racism.)
But while the experts will say what they want, you, college football fan, do not have to be down on Jackson.
This son of a gun was the most fun football player in the country, and he’s the reason Louisville should be considered an ACC contender.
In his first full year, Jackson threw for 3,543 yards, and not including sacks, he rushed for 1,896. Combined touchdowns: 51. During a 9-1 start, the Cardinals scored at least 44 points in eight games and posted 36 points and 568 yards against eventual national champion Clemson in Death Valley. Jackson had the Heisman secured by basically midseason.
Remember that time he jumped over a defender while scoring four touchdowns in the first nine offensive plays.
Remember how he torched Florida State eight days later in the school’s biggest home game to date. On a pressure-packed stage, Jackson ran for four touchdowns and made a defense full of elite talent look like it wasn’t fit to play on the same field.
He did that in high school too, when he undressed a defender in the most savage way possible.
Remember that preposterously smooth TD he threw against Virginia to save the game?
Remember how Jackson grabbed the Heisman by the throat at some point in October?
Remember that he almost ruined Clemson’s dream season.
We’ll never know what would have happened if James Quick didn’t step out of bounds last season in Death Valley, but the Cardinals were this close to pulling off quite the comeback.
He did all of that as a true sophomore, the youngest Heisman-winner ever.
And the Cards have endeavored to plug some of those holes by hiring longtime OL coach Mike Summers.
Bobby Petrino is also putting Jackson under center more, both to fit into a more conventional Petrino offense and improve Jackson’s pro prospects.
Finally, Louisville’s nation-leading 22 fumbles lost last season is a number that is almost certain to come back down. Mathematically, the Cardinals should’ve lost about seven fewer of their 30 fumbles on the year, which could’ve swung the Clemson, Houston, or Kentucky games. How much more hyped would we be about Jackson if his team had gone 11-2?
Same with the dropsy WR corps.
A thing to consider when mentioning Lamar Jackson 56% comp. pct, excluding throw aways, 24.3% of his incompletions were the result of drops.— J.R. (@JReidDraftScout) August 17, 2017
The underlying point is:
Folks, Lamar Jackson is pretty good. He likely will continue to be this season.
He’s also pretty fun, and I doubt that’ll change either. So you can be excited for what he’s gonna do this season. I certainly am.