Throughout the 2015 season there has been a Quarterback debate. Lamar Jackson, Kyle Bolin, Reggie Bonnafon? The Cards started with Reggie Bonnafon vs. Auburn, went with Lamar Jackson for the 2nd half and started him vs. Houston before going to Kyle Bolin. Bolin then started vs. Clemson and then returned back to Lamar Jackson for Samford. Many have said that UofL doesn’t have a ‘competition’ but rather that it has ‘choices’. That is probably true in terms of style of offense that will best attack a defense in a situation.
Right now, Lamar Jackson has the largest exposure. He’s thrown 183 passes to Kyle Bolin’s 56. The biggest knock against Lamar is his inability to get under center, which greatly affects the run game. But Lamar partly makes up for that with his own mobility. For the purposes of this exercise let’s take a look first at the 3 quarterbacks as passers before evaluating the added value of Lamar’s ability to run as a QB.
Clearly, Lamar’s has had the most opportunity here. But Jackson’s completion percentage as a true freshman is slightly higher than Kyle Bolin’s as a redshirt-sophomore (his 3rd year of college football). Bolin’s Yard Per Attempt is slightly higher, but Lamar’s Rating is over 5 points better.
Reggie Bonnafon has the smallest exposure in 2015 at QB and by each metric falls short of Bolin & Jackson overall, but does show potential in some of the more split stats.
On 1st down, Lamar is clearly the choice. Although Lamar does have 4 of his 7 INTs on 1st down, he’s converted 24 of 85 1st downs back into 1st downs as opposed to Kyle Bolin’s 6 of 25. That’s a big deal. Also Bolin completes just 48% of his passes on 1st down while Lamar is at 61.2%. Lastly, there is over a 50 point divide in QB Rating here between Jackson & Bolin.
Bonnafon’s numbers really fall short on 1st down, but do pick up later.
|1st Down Passing||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
On 2nd Down, Bolin has the advantage. Kyle has converted 11 of 21 2nd downs into 1st downs while completing 76.2% of his passes and holds nearly a 100 point gap in QB Rating. This is Lamar Jackson’s biggest area of improvement as he really under performs on 2nd down compared to 1st & 3rd Down. Lamar’s completion %, YPA, and rating really lags when passing on 2nd down during 2015. Improving this area for Lamar could really close the conversation.
Bonnafon converted 4 of 6 2nd downs into a fresh set as well.
|2nd Down Passing||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
On 3rd Down the advantage goes back in favor of Lamar Jackson. Lamar converts 50% of 3rd downs (21 of 42) into 1st downs and completes 61.9% of his passes on the money down. The QB rating is nearly 100 points better than Kyle Bolin.
This is also a situation where Reggie really stands out. 3 of 6 3rd down conversions and a QB rating 57 points higher than even Lamar…but it is a limited exposure.
|3rd Down Passing||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
3rd & Short
Getting into some of split stats, 3rd & short is usually a running down but it is telling that Bolin has yet to throw a pass in this situation, while Jackson and Bonnafon are perfect in converting in this situation. We won’t spend a lot of time here because of the limited exposure (by design because teams don’t typically pass in 3rd & short).
|3rd & 1-3||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
3rd & Medium
Again, Bolin hasn’t seen a lot of action in 3rd & Medium (4-6 yards) but Lamar Jackson is a stellar 10-13 converting 9 of 13 third downs in this situations into 1st downs with a QB Rating of 133.91.
|3rd & 4-6||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
3rd & Long
Lamar on 3rd & Long is OUTSTANDING. Kyle Bolin doesn’t yet have a 1st down, but again with very limited exposure. A QB Rating of 160.36 on 3rd & Long is extremely clutch and converting 4 of 9 of these situations into 3rd down is pretty remarkable….especially for a true freshman QB.
|3rd & 7-9||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
3rd & Really Long
I do think it’s telling that Kyle Bolin’s largest exposure of 3rd down passing comes at 3rd & Really Long. But to be fair….it’s also the largest exposure for Lamar as well on 3rd down. So if UofL is going to be in 3rd & Really Long, who do you want? Well…..you want Lamar Jackson. He’s converted 5 of 17 compared to 0 of 6 for Bolin. Also Lamar’s 125.27 QB Rating is leaps and bounds better than Bolin’s at the moment. Maybe we need to see more Bolin in this situation to straighten this out, but with the data we have…it’s Lamar Jackson.
|3rd & 10+||C-A||%||Ys||Y/A||TD||INT||Rating||1st Downs|
One thing that Lamar has that most QBs have is the ability to run. Even with Sacks calculated (175 yards lost) into the equation Lamar averages 4.32 yards per carry. Kyle Bolin is mobile…..but his stats don’t support that he’s the kind of runner that Lamar Jackson is capable of being. For that reason we aren’t going to compare Bolin to Jackson in terms of running ability…that wouldn’t be fair. But this is a dynamic of Lamar’s game that Kyle doesn’t have so we’ll include Lamar’s stats here exclusively before making a declaration.
-1st Down: Lamar has rushed 41 times converted 8 for a 1st down and averages 2.95 yards per carry. Also Lamar has a TD rushing on 1st down. 9 plays were for 10+ yards.
-2nd Down: Jackson has made up for his lackluster (by his standards on 1st & 3rd down) 2nd down passing by 2nd down rushing. Lamar has 43 carries for 326 yards (7.58 ypc) added 4 TDs and converted 12 of 43 of those rushes into a first down. 11 rushes were for 10+ yards and 4 rushes were 20+.
-3rd Down: It’s important to note here that all of these rushing stats include sacks and that really comes into focus here when Lamar rushes on 3rd down. Jackson has converted 6 of 27 3rd downs while rushing for a total of just 26 yards (0.96 ypc) suggesting that Lamar gets sacked a lot on 3rd down. Jackson does have a TD in this situation and 4 of those rushes were for 10+ yards.
So Who Do You Want At Quarterback?
For me, justifying your Quarterback has to be quantifiable. Lamar has had the most opportunity. Kyle Bolin has had his chances as well. Kyle Bolin excites fans because he can go down the field and makes fewer mistakes than he did a year ago when he electrified the Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium crowd and rallied the Cards to beat Kentucky. That performance is tough to forget, but in order to move forward we need to evaluate the things we know this year.
Fact is by almost every measurable metric Lamar Jackson has outplayed every QB on Louisville’s roster. Completion %, QB Rating, TDs per Attempt (4% for Lamar, 1% for Kyle). But on 1st & 3rd Down, Lamar Jackson really stands out above everyone else. Even though Lamar’s performance has sagged on 2nd downs, his volatility is much less than Kyle Bolin’s from 1st, to 2nd, to 3rd down.
Just evaluating Lamar as a passer places him above the other QBs at this point. Adding in Lamar’s production and ability to run the ball moves the balance much further into his favor.
At this point if you want another Cardinal at QB you’ll need to convince me of something beyond the numbers. Sentiment is one thing, numbers are another. Cardinal fans will always remember Kyle Bolin’s comeback vs Kentucky and Reggie Bonnafon’s performance vs. Notre Dame were fantastic. But moving forward we only have what we have…..and right now Lamar Jackson’s outperforming the other QBs.
Lamar needs to develop and go under center so the running game can evolve and take some pressure off of the passing game and the pass protection. But for now, the true freshman who can only operate out of the shotgun is playing better than 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year QBs. For me, roll the dice with the talent who can take you the furthest now & later. That’s Lamar Jackson. Louisville started 0-3 and has since won 4 of its last 5. Everyone wants the offense to explode and eventually will but for now there are growing pains….and they aren’t all related to Lamar. Let the kid ball, Cardinal fans should get behind him and be grateful that UofL has QBs like Bolin, Bonnafon, and Gardner on the roster with a lot of experience and talent.
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