Earlier this week Sports Illustrated’s Scooby Axson took a look at the Greatest Individual Seasons in College Football History. Axson chose to omit Lamar Jackson from his overall list:
- Barry Sanders 1988 Oklahoma State
- Tim Tebow 2007 Florida
- Marcus Allen 1981 USC
- Steve McNair 1994 Alcorn State
- Reggie Bush 2005 USC
- Sammy Baugh 1936 TCU
- Ricky Williams 1998 Texas
- Ndamukong Suh 2009 Nebraska
- Johnny Manziel 2012 Texas A&M
- Herschel Walker 1981 Georgia
First of all, this is a tough assignment and as Axson notes, we are embarking on the 150th season of college football. Over the span of 149 years there have been innumerable amazing seasons across the landscape of college football. Axson dips back into the 30s with Sammy Baugh, gives a nod to an FCS star in Steve McNair and even included a defensive player in Ndamukong Suh…… but let me advocate for Lamar Jackson’s 2016 or his 2017 season.
There have been 22 FIVE THOUSAND YARD performances in a single season in college football history. Lamar Jackson owns two of those in 2016 & 2017. Lamar’s 2017 is the #8 most yards gained in a single season, his 2016 season that took home the Heisman Trophy is #18. Impressive considering the pass heavy guys on that list: BJ Symons, Colt Brennan, Case Keenum (3x), Graham Harrell (2x), Patrick Mahomes, David Klingler, Derek Carr, Paul Smith, Bryant Moniz, Matt Johnson and Ty Detmer.
Dual-threat players are fewer of the 22 Five Thousand Yard single season performances: Marcus Mariota, Deshaun Watson (2x), Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson (2x).
Lamar Jackson in 2016:
- 230 completions, 409 attempts, 56.2%. 3543 yards 30 TDs 9 INT. 272.5 ypg
- 260 rushes, 1571 yards, 21 TDs
- 5114 Total Yards, 51 TDs. (393.4 ypg, 3.923 TDs per game)
Lamar Jackson in 2017:
- 254 completions, 430 attempts, 59.1%. 3660 yards, 27 TDs, 10 INT. 281.5 ypg
- 232 rushes, 1601 yards, 18 TDs.
- 5261 yards, 45 TDs. (404.7 ypg, 3.46 TDs per game)
First, How can we compare Lamar Jackson to Running Backs? Just using Lamar’s rushing totals? Jackson’s rushing totals only tell half of the story but he had more yards per carry and more rushing TDs than Herschel Walker‘s 1981 season. Reggie Bush was a major weapon on a loaded USC team, but it’s hard to see 1740 yards + 478 receiving yards and 18 total TDs in 2005 and compare it to what Lamar Jackson did in 2016 and 2017 and accept that Reggie Bush‘s 2005 was better than 2016 or 2017 of Lamar Jackson. I’m not touching Barry Sanders‘ 1988 season at #1 (344 rushes, 2628 yards and 37 TDs + 1 KR for TD in just 11 games is off the charts)…. to me Lamar Jackson & Barry Sanders stand above the rest of the crowd as statistical outliers.
Before we get into the QB comparisons Ndamukong Suh was a tremendous defensive player and a college football all-timer. And I’ll take Scobby Axson’s word for it on Sammy Baugh in 1936. But it’s not comparable and I’ll just consider the list a true Top 8.
But let’s take a look at the other QBs listed here. First Steve McNair played at Alcorn State but still managed to finish 3rd in the Heisman voting despite playing at the 1-AA (now FCS) level. McNair’s 4863 yards and 44 TDs is impressive in just 12 games, but at a lesser level than what Lamar Jackson faced in 2016 or 2017. I think about how Lamar Jackson looked against Charlotte (2016), Marshall (2016), Kent State (2017) & Murray State (2017) and then just imagine what his stats might have looked like had Lamar played against competition like that for an entire season.
Johnny Manziel’s 2012 season is listed here at #9…. and Lamar Jackson’s 2016 season is extremely close: Manziel had 2 more total yards while Lamar had 3 more TDs. But the difference between the two players is that Lamar backed up his performance in 2017 with a BETTER season than 2016 while Johnny Manziel regressed. There were a lot of Manziel comparisons when Lamar first hit the scene and the Manziel comparison is much more understandable when the statistics are lined up.
|Johnny Manziel 2012||Lamar Jackson 2016|
|5116 yards, 47 TDs||5114 yards, 51 TDs|
|Johnny Manziel 2013||Lamar Jackson 2017|
|4873 yards, 46 TDs||5261 yards, 45 TDs. |
The last one we’ll tackle here is Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow never gained 5000+ yards. But he did score a TON of Touchdowns, was the first player to throw & run for 20+ TDs and was the first sophomore to take home the Heisman. So in a way, Tebow was a statistical trailblazer for Lamar, Manziel, Mariota and Kyler Murray.
|Tim Tebow 2006||Lamar Jackson 2015|
|827 yards, 13 TDs||2800 Yards, 23 TDs|
|Tim Tebow 2007||Lamar Jackson 2016|
|4181 yards, 55 TDs||5114 yards, 51 TDs|
|Tim Tebow 2008||Lamar Jackson 2017|
|3419 yards, 42 TDs||5261 yards, 45 TDs.|
|Tim Tebow 2009|
|3805 yards, 35 TDs|
When examining the Tebow vs. Lamar stats it’s important to note that Tebow played in 14 games in 2006, 2008 and 2009. Clearly Tebow’s most impressive season is 2007 as noted by SI’s Scooby Axson. The 55 TDs stand out. It’s 4 more TDs than Lamar in 2016 and we can debate whether or not 4 TDs outweighs the 1000 yard difference, I’d argue that TDs should matter much more than yardage to a certain degree. It’s also important to note that Axson’s evaluation never took into account overall team performance. But historically Tebow is probably going to rank over Lamar as history moves forward….. it just won’t be because of raw stats.
Lamar Jackson Louisville Records (only listing #1s):
For fun, here is a list of #1 rankings Lamar Jackson holds in UofL Football.
- 1st Most Total Offense Career: 13,175 yards
- 1st Most Total Offense Season: 5261 yards (2017)
- 1st Most Total Offense Game: 610 yards (2016 vs. Syracuse)
- 1st Most Total Offense Yards Per Game Single Season: 404.7 ypg (2017)
- 1st Most Total Offense Yards Career: 346.7 ypg
- 1st Rushing Yards in Career: 4132 yards
- 1st Rushing TDs in Career: 50 TDs
- 1st Rushing TDs in Season: 21 TDs (2016)
- 1st Rushing Yards in Season: 1601 yards (2017)
- 1st Yards Per Carry in Individual Season (200+ attempts): 6.9 ypc (2017)
- 1st Yards Per Carry Career: 6.3 ypc
- 1st Most 100+ Yard Rushing Games in Single Season: 10 games (2017)
- 1st Most 100+ Yard Rushing Games Career: 23 games
- 1st Most Consecutive 100+ Yard Rushing Games: 7 games
- 1st Most 150-yard Rushing Games Career: 13 games
- 1st Most Rushing Yards by Freshman in Single Game: 226 yards (vs. A&M)
- 1st Most Rushing Yards by QB in Single Game: 226 yards (vs. A&M)
- 1st Most Rushing Yards by QB in Season: 1601 yards (2017)
- 1st Most Rushing Yards by QB in Career: 4132 yards
- 1st Most Win as Starting QB by Freshman: 5 games.
- 1st Most TD Passes in Single Game: 6 TDs (2016 vs. Charlotte)
- 1st Most Points Responsible Single Game: 48 points (2016 vs. Charlotte)
- 1st Most Points Responsible Single Season: 308 points (2016)
- 1st Most Points Responsible Career: 718 points
- 1st Most TDs Scored Career: 50 TDs
- 1st Most TDs Responsible For Game, Season & Career: 8, 51, 119
Lamar Jackson ACC Records:
More dramatically than his school records are his rankings throughout the ACC especially when we account for the fact that Lamar Jackson only played 3 seasons of college football.
- 1st in Career Total Offense Per Game: 346.7 ypg
- 1st in Total Offense Yardage (Season): 5261 yards (2017)
- 1st in Total Offense Yardage Per Game (Season): 404.7 ypg, (2017)
- 1st in TD Responsibility for Individual Season: 51 TDs (2016)
- 1st in 500+ yard games: 3 games
- 1st in 400+ yard games: 14 games
- 1st in Career Rushing Yardage by QB: 4,132 yards (1300 yards above 2nd)
- 1st in Career Rushing TDs by QB: 50 TDs (12 TDs more than 2nd)
- 1st in Total Offense in 2016: 393.4 ypg (#2 in ACC History)
- 1st in Total Offense in 2017: 404.7 ypg. (#1 in ACC History)
- 1st in Rushing in 2017: 123.2 ypg
- 1st in Scoring in 2016: 126 points
- 1st Most Rushing TDs by QB in Individual Season: 21 TDs (2016)
- 1st Most Rushing Yardage by QB in Individual Season: 1601 yards (2017)
- 1st in Total Offensive Yardage in Game: 610 yards (2016 vs. Syracuse)
- 1st Most TD Responsibility in Single Game: 8 TDs (2016 vs. Charlotte)
- 1st Most TD Passes in Single Game: 6 TDs (2016 vs. Charlotte)
- 2nd in Career Total Offense: 13,175 yards. (407 yards behind 4 yr player Phillip Rivers)
- 2nd in Career TD Responsibility: 119 TDs (Tajh Boyd was 4 year player with 133 TDs)
- 2nd in Total Offense Yardage Per Game (Season): 393.4 ypg (2016)
- 2nd in Career Rushing TDs: 50 TDs.
- 2nd in Career 100+ yard Rushing Games: 23 games.
- 2nd in Most Rushing Yardage by QB in Individual Season: 1571 yards (2016)
- 2nd Most Rushing Yards by QB in Single Game: 226 yards (2015 vs. Texas A&M). Lamar has 9 of the Top 25 single game tallies.
- 3rd Most Rushing TDs in Season: 21 TDs (2016)
- 3rd in Career Rushing Yards Per Game: 108.7 ypg
- 3rd Most Rushing TDs by QB in Individual Season: 18 TDs (2017)
- 4th in Total Offense Yardage (Season): 5114 yards (2016)
- 4th in TDs in Individual Season: 21 TDs (2016 *passing TDs not included in this metric)
- 5th in Career Rushing Yardage: 4,132 yards
- 5th in Consecutive 100+ Yard Games Rushing: 7 games
- 5th in Career 300+ Yards Passing Games: 13 games
- 5th in Career TD Scored: 50 TDs (passing TDs not included in this metric)
- 5th in TD Responsibility for Individual Season: 45 TDs (2017)
- 7th in Career TD Passes: 69 TDs (only two 3-year players with more)12th in Career Passing Yards Per Game: 238.0 ypg
- 9th Most Rushing TDs in Individual Season: 18 TDs (2017)
- 9th Most Total Offense in Game: 525 yards (2017 vs. UNC)
- 10th Most Total Offense by Freshamn: 2800 yards (2015)
- 12th Most QB Rushing Yardage in Individual Season: 960 yards (2015)
- 14th in Career Rushing Yards Per Carry: 6.31 ypc
- 14th in TD Passes in Individual Season: 30 TDs (2016)
- 14th Most Rushing Yardage by Freshman: 960 yards (2015)
- 14th Most Total Offense in Game: 512 yards (2017 vs. BC)
- 15th in Career Passing Yards: 9043 yards (3rd place among 3-year players in ACC)
- 16th Career Passing Efficiency: 142.94
- 21st Most Total Offense in Game: 491 yards (2017 vs. Wake)
- 22nd in TD Passes in Individual Season: 27 (2017)
- 24th Most Total Offense in Game: 485 yards (2017 vs. Purdue)
- 26th Most Total Offense in Game: 479 yards (2016 vs. Marshall)
- 31st in Career Scoring (300 points, 6th among non-kickers, highest scoring 3-year player/non-kicker).
Lamar Jackson is one of the greatest players of all-time. His omission from the SI list is one of the latest in a series of snubs Jackson has endured over his career. How Lamar’s legacy will hold up against time is unknown, but I doubt we will see another player as electrifying on the field or in the stat book for quite some time.