The Louisville offense will only go as far as their star quarterback Lamar Jackson can take it. The 2015 season showed just how important the position was to the offense as Reggie Bonnafon, Kyle Bolin, and Jackson all took snaps and all struggled at points throughout the season. As the schedule got a little bit easier and the coaches decided to stick with one guy in Jackson, we all got to see just how great the potential of the offense is.
Jackson is, arguably, the most explosive quarterback in the country when he tucks the ball. Jackson has the potential to break a long run at any moment and only a few defenses were able to slow him down, let alone stop him completely. Jackson has an unbelievable ability to maintain top speed after cutting on a dime. He is also really great at setting up defenders before he makes his cut. What will be interesting to watch this year is how Jackson handles defenses geared to stop him (Like Houston's last year) and defenses that can match his speed (Like FSU). When Houston utilized their safeties and nickel corners to contain Jackson, he had a very hard time getting loose. Frustration tends to set in when that happens and he had a few ill-advised passes in those games.
So what constitutes an "improvement" as a passer? Consistency is what I'm looking for. Jackson showed flashes of quick and smart decision making as well as following that up with an accurate pass. But for how great he played over the last half of the season, he finished the last two games completing less than 50% of his passes. Jackson had a very good game targeting a weakness in FSU's secondary and delivering good passes when he saw that weakness. It was probably the most impressive game he had as a passer in my opinion. The line didn't give him a lot of time and he was bottled up as a runner, but he hit passes at all three levels and showed really good touch on his deep balls. If Jackson can become more consistent as a passer this year, the offense should explode like we've all expected in Bobby Petrino's second stint.
Kyle Bolin will be the second string quarterback this year and it's very nice to see that he's handled it with a team mentality. Bolin could have transferred and played at a smaller school immediately but he decided to accept his role and spent this offseason training and working on his footwork and ability to throw on the move. Bolin is a good player and someone that could come in and win a game for Louisville if needed. While he might be a true starting caliber player, he is someone that has the experience and ability to run the offense and allow the skill position players to make plays. That's better than most teams in the country could say right now.
I think that Jawon Pass will redshirt this year, but if Jackson were to suffer an significant injury it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to burn Pass' redshirt to make him the backup. Pass is unrefined and raw but he has a ton of athletic ability and might be a better option than a beefed up Reggie Bonnafon who is a key player in the slot.
AROUND THE ACC
Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Watson is the best quarterback in the nation and he gets the luxury of having pretty much everyone back on his offense. Louisville is the only defense that has had any success in slowing down Watson over the last two years but this year Watson will be in year two of a tweaked offensive system and he has the best group of receivers in the nation to throw the ball to. The rich got richer and Watson's pinpoint accuracy and above average running ability will be tough to stop.
Brad Kaaya, Miami
Louisville's first ACC game was also Kaaya's first game and first start as a college quarterback. I left that game impressed with Kaaya's potential and he really started to show that potential last year. Miami's offense was about as boring as it gets under Al Golden but Mark Richt should bring a little more flair even though he prefers a pro-style type of offense. Kaaya should have the opportunities to show off a pretty big arm and really nice decision making. He's got a really nice group of skill players around him but his offensive line is somewhat of a question.
NEXT IN LINE
Nathan Peterman, Pitt
I think Nathan Peterman is the perfect fit for Pitt's offense. He's not going to wow you with much of anything other than his consistency. Pitt should have James Conner back at full strength this year and they will have an outstanding running game. All Peterman needs to do is protect the football like he did for the vast majority of last year, and take advantage of big plays when they're there. Pitt's running game should be great but Peterman does need to find a reliable receiver now that Tyler Boyd is gone.
Mitch Trubisky, UNC
North Carolina had a great season last year with an unbelievable explosive offense but they will need to replace Marquise Williams. Luckily, UNC was able to get Trubisky a good amount of game reps last year and he performed well when he got the opportunity. Trubisky isn't the runner that Williams was but that's not always a big deal. Williams was indecisive at times and made some negative plays at times because of it. Trubisky can avoid those issues and rely on a stellar group of skill players around him. Talk out of UNC has been very positive this offseason.