I don’t understand it. Alright, maybe in a small way, I kind of do. But in order for me to understand it at all, I have to take off the red goggles, which are also realistic goggles when it comes to this, and put on those of a casual football fan that just looks at box scores and listens to the national media. What am I talking about? The newest fad that is sweeping the nation, overlooking Lamar Jackson.
On August 1, ESPN tweeted the following. Their “experts” didn’t have Lamar in their top 5 players heading into the 2017 season.
Here are the top 5 college football players going into the 2017 season according to our experts.— ESPN (@espn) August 1, 2017
Do you agree? pic.twitter.com/b0aMPwMB7K
Bleacher Report released their top 100 players entering the 2017 season, and Lamar was 10th. So he was the best player in college football last season, has a full offseason to get stronger and better and work with Bobby Petrino, and now there are nine players better than him? Alrighty then.
I can spend all day googling different lists that either leave Lamar off completely, or just have several people in front of him. But we have all seen them. We know he is being overlooked. This post isn’t to break news on that. It’s more to try and figure out why, if that is possible.
Mark Blankenbaker of TheCrunchZone.com was the only person to select Lamar as the preseason ACC Player of the Year last year. One vote. Lamar got one vote, and it was from someone local. Fast forward to September 1, 2016. Louisville dismantles Charlotte 70-14, which wasn’t a surprise. But Jackson threw for six touchdowns and rushed for two. He was responsible for eight touchdowns. EIGHT! Suddenly, he was on everyone’s radar.
But how would he follow that up? It was only Charlotte. Well, he rushed for four touchdowns and hurdled a dude against Syracuse. That helped get his name out there and give him that “Heisman moment” if things ever got that far. Surely the hype would stop there. Florida State was next. Now it was time for this new kid on the block to come back to reality. Or he could get five more touchdowns and lead the Cards to a 63-20 win over the Seminoles when the eyes of the college football world were on Louisville that day.
And just like that, in the blink of an eye, the country loved Lamar Jackson. He was the darling of college football. Anytime he took a snap, you wanted to watch because it could be a touchdown. He made it look like you just hit the L1 and R1 button to juke (dating myself with old Playstation references).
I believe that people are overlooking Lamar Jackson because they want to find the next...Lamar Jackson, even though he is still in college. Everyone wants to find that next big thing in college football. Mark Blankenbaker nailed it last year when nobody else did. Now, it’s not “cool” to pick Lamar to have another record-breaking season. He had his moment in the spotlight. And now, people are wondering who will be next. Why does it have to be someone new?
The last three games of 2016 give those people the ammo they need to move on from Lamar. The Houston loss was awful. He threw three interceptions against Kentucky at home. LSU held him to 33 yards rushing and had him running for his life. Those three games were not good. Yet, he still hit the L1 R1 buttons and ran away with the Heisman Trophy.
Let’s not sugarcoat it. The offensive line was very bad last season. Louisville ranked 124th out of 128 teams in sacks allowed with 47 total, or 3.62 per game. For teams to be able to reach Lamar in the backfield is amazing in itself. He certainly wouldn’t allow that on his own. The line was bad. By all accounts, Mike Summers has the offensive line improved and ready to make up for their dismal 2016.
Lamar easily won the Heisman with a less-than-stellar offensive line. If they have improved, why wouldn’t he be right there in the mix to win it again? The line is not to blame for every mistake he made. He still tried to make the big play sometimes, when the smarter play was to throw the ball away. But he definitely made the right decision more than some games in 2015, so he showed improvement. Why wouldn’t that improvement happen again in 2017? Another full spring and summer to work with Bobby and Nick Petrino and become a better quarterback, not just a runner.
Sure, he might not put up 51 touchdowns or 5,114 yards this season. (Before you move on, look at those numbers again. Ridiculous). But does he have to? And who’s to say he won’t anyway? You don’t think he sees all of these lists that come out and that it doesn’t motivate him any more? The schedule sets up for him to be right there in the spotlight again. The country will be focused on Alabama-Florida State in week one, and I get that. But Lamar can have a huge game against Purdue where people just see big stats. Then a national television game against North Carolina before Clemson comes to town. Possible College Gameday for that one?
Remember how 2016 started? Big stats against a bad team, followed by a conference road game, and then the big one to prove it was real. North Carolina is better than Syracuse, but you get the point. The first three games are setting up like the first three of 2016, when Jackson jumped onto the scene, literally and figuratively. Now it appears that he has to jump back into the scene. For what reason? I don’t know. Because it’s cool to find new players to talk about, I suppose.
So go ahead, keep overlooking the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Come out with your lists that don’t include him, or have nine players better than him. It is the fun and hip thing to do. It certainly gets you clicks and attention. You want to find the next Lamar. Newsflash, the old Lamar is still in town. Overlook him at your own risk.
Go Cards...Beat Purdue!