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The Cardinal Countdown: 8 Days Until Kickoff

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

#8 Lamar Jackson

Class: Sophomore

Ht/Wt: 6-3/205

Position: Quarterback

Hometown: Boynton Beach, FL

Twitter: @Lj_era8

Thoughts: If you’ve read the countdown the last five years you kind of know my approach to the player recaps. Review the player from the year before, mention some downsides/negatives but put the majority of the focus on the positives and the ways the player can improve and contribute in the upcoming season. After all, who the hell am I to crush an 18-22 year old about their athletic achievements? With that being said, I feel the need to maybe, just maybe….throw the switch on the Lamar hype train, and take an alternate route….meaning we’ll still wind up at the same final destination, but my route takes us a little longer to get there. Let me explain.

I went back to last year’s countdown post on Lamar and found it humorous that this time last season, less than 10 days from kickoff, we had just come to the realization that Lamar would likely get some playing time in 2015. The fall was filled with “redshirt” talk and even though we knew he was talented, was he going to have enough time to learn everything before the season began (didn’t matter), and was it worth burning a year of his eligibility with Bolin, Reggie, and Will all available? Literally one play into the 2015 season we had our answer. Lamar was playing…and the result of that play wasn’t “ideal”. As the season wore on and we continued to juggle quarterbacks in and out there was little denying that with Lamar in the game, if nothing else, he was the most exciting player to watch. His ability to move in the pocket, avoid tackles, flash his wheels, and on occasion hit a man in stride with the flick of his wrist, was simply entertaining.

I think most of us as fans saw the potential he had after just a few games….but we also saw the team leading 8 interceptions, the worst completion percentage on the team (54.7%), the fewest yards/att (7.4) and the worst QB rating (126.78). He was raw, and the revelations from the players and coaches this offseason confirmed that. From his mouth (and Petrino’s) to our ears, we learned that for most of 2015 he didn’t know the vast majority of the playbook, struggled to take snaps from under center, and had no idea what his progressions were, which lead him to take off when his first option wasn’t available. Frankly, those passing numbers above look fairly impressive now, considering just how far behind he was for almost all of 2015. So, with over 8 months to prepare for 2016 and what we saw in Nashville, the young man is going to be incredible, right? Well…

This is where I start to take a parallel path to probably the overwhelming majority of the fanbase. Before you get pitchforks and torches, it’s just a small detour, but a detour none the less. Do I think Lamar will have a great 2016 season? Absolutely. Do I think he’s learned enough over the last few months to guide this team to nine or ten wins? No doubt in my mind. Does Petrino’s sly grin when he talks about Lamar’s development give me a small tingle in my trousers? I’ll keep that one to myself. The issue for me is the percentage of the fanbase who are actually questioning Lamar’s meteoric rise in the last few months is near minuscule, at best. Almost as if it’s a given he’ll throw for over 3,500 yards and rush for over another 1,000(i.e. Manziel reincarnate). Let us not forget that Lamar wasn’t even our starting quarterback TWO games ago. I know he’s better than last season, I can see it, I read about it, I listen to Petrino talk about it, but he’s also just a Sophomore still learning the offense, and still learning to become a threat with his arm on the collegiate level. As much as I love to lead the charge for each and every player on this team I do get nervous when we build a pedestal so high for Lamar that there is very little distance for us to elevate his status, but a significant distance for him to fall if things don’t go as planned.

I think Lamar is going to be a great quarterback for Louisville, for at least the next two years. He already has multiple freshman rushing records, ACC awards, MVP awards, his name on the short list of bowl game greats, his name on numerous watch lists, preseason All-ACC love, magazine covers, and plenty of talent to go down as one of the best to do it in a Cards jersey. If he meets the lofty expectations I’ll be screaming just as loud as anyone, but if doesn’t, or has hiccups along the way, I’m not going to be the guy spilling his beer screaming for Bolin three games in. As I said above, hopefully those miscues, if they do happen, are simply an alternate path or detour on the journey for Lamar to become an excellent quarterback. In that scenario he may not put up the stats or have the ‘Heisman-like’ season many expect, but our team goals can still be realized and the Cards can still be playing some meaningful postseason games in early 2017. We without a doubt have the talent on defense and surrounding him on the offensive side of the ball to get past some minor bumps in the road.

Jackson could be something very special here, let’s not make our expectations of him so high that we become complacent with the amazing things he can do.

Sweet Tweet:

Can’t figure out why my breath stinks. I been rocking this ‘Crust’ for weeks, bro.

I’m trying to write a letter to them about their garbage toothpaste but my damn Skerple keeps running out of ink.

Oh well, nothing 20 minutes and a glass of Johns Daphne can’t fix…