It was evident that Lamar Jackson played off instinct a year ago. At times it looked as if the Louisville trigger man didn’t know the plays, the progressions or even the concept of the offense…….and he didn’t. Lamar Jackson didn’t have a playbook in high school and his first interaction with a traditional playbook occurred when he arrived to campus in June of 2015. Flying by the seat of his pants Lamar was good for equally electrifying play-making & mystifying decision-making. Additionally Bobby Petrino rarely put Jackson under center which limited the play-action passing game, the power run game and in the 4th quarter Lamar had to be replaced to close out games.
This Spring the renovation of Lamar Jackson’s game began. Lamar began laboring over the playbook, Petrino forced Jackson to work on his passing reading progressions and staying in the pocket to make the proper decisions.
What will happen now that Lamar Jackson has a better understanding of the offensive concepts and his teammates also will have a better idea of what the Louisville QB will do as well? How much better can Lamar be in 2016? Getting under-center will DEFINITELY add a layer of deception particularly in giving UofL options in the play-action department AND getting the running backs involved in the traditional run game……… ALL of which makes Lamar Jackson more dangerous running & passing.
Petrino is likely to use a great number of formations and concepts with Lamar at Quarterback. We saw Jackson throw a beautiful deep ball in the Spring Game and he’s still REALLY fast, Coach Petrino is going to attempt to make any defense playing 2-man against Lamar Jackson pay for the error, but the Cards will have to protect its QB. Additionally will Lamar continue to use his legs as a ‘check down’ or will he hit the short routes more often or even burn the ball instead of attempting to run and losing yards? Stefan LeFors had few run plays actually called for him but still managed to gain over 400 yards rushing as a junior while using the run as a checkdown…… fans should expect to see better decision making from Lamar, larger distribution to the other skill players on offense and overall greater efficiency from the Louisville Offense as a result of the evolution of Lamar Jackson.
My Predicted Depth Chart
#1 Lamar Jackson 6’3, 205, Soph.
#2 Kyle Bolin 6’2, 210, Jr.
#3 Jawon Pass 6’4, 207, Fr.
#4 Sean McCormack 6’5, 209, Fr.
#4 Ethan Horton 6’0, 205, Jr.
Kyle Bolin returns as the #2 Quarterback heading into camp. Louisville’s Quarterback situation was influx throughout the 2015 season and Petrino leaned on Kyle a great deal to win games. Bolin is a confident & capable QB for the Cards and has performed well against top competition over the past two seasons. Kyle was the QB for the entire Clemson game last season when UofL hung in with the national runner-ups into the 4th quarter before falling 20-17. Bolin has experience and pedigree and if the ball gets turned over to Bolin in a critical situation he’s shown that he can be ready to execute and will bring much needed energy when given the opportunity. Bolin has also proven to be a major asset in the locker room as a great teammate and ambassador of the Louisville Football program. The best thing about Kyle being the #2 QB is that coaches, players, & fans all know what they are getting with Bolin at QB and would go into games & critical situations with confidence that he can get the job done.
The Cards have also added highly touted true freshman Jawon ‘Puma’ Pass. Pass came to UofL with offers from most of the major programs in college football and chose to come to UofL to learn under Bobby Petrino. If Lamar Jackson & Jawon Pass were in the same class it would be interesting to see who might have the leg up TODAY, but as it sits Pass will have the opportunity & luxury to absorb college football at a much more reasonable pace than Lamar. By all accounts Puma has the skills, mobility, and arm talent to be a big-time Quarterback for the Cards, but we’ll have to open up Fall Camp to see how far along he is to contribute in 2016.
It is an interesting question to see what would occur if Petrino needed to go down to its 3rd Quarterback option. Would UofL use Pass’ redshirt season? Would Petrino elect to move Reggie Bonnafon over as an emergency QB? Or would the Cards elect to use walk-ons Ethan Horton & Sean McCormack?
The Cards have finished just one season since 2002 (the 2013 season) with one Quarterback starting and finishing each game without an injury. So odds are that Coach Petrino is going to have to turn the keys over to someone else at some point during the season. Right now that option figures to be Kyle Bolin, but could Jawon Pass accelerate his expected learning curve and see the field in 2016? We’ll get a good indicator next month as the team goes through Fall Camp.