Red-Lit For Success
September 19, 2016 by Jonathan Lowe • Print Story •
Among the annual traditions the college football bestows upon us is the Heisman candidate that appears from out of thin air. From 2012 winner Johnny Manziel to 2013 contender Andre Williams to 2015 runner-up Christian McCaffrey, there's usually one off-the-radar name that produces a season worthy of consideration.
Going into 2016, Clemson QB DeShaun Watson and LSU tailback Leonard Fournette were the considerable favorites, with Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, Georgia RB Nick Chubb, and Florida State RB Dalvin Cook ready to step in if the other faltered. I don't know how many lists included Louisville QB Lamar Jackson, but I'd be shocked if a number higher than "0" is involved.
The first two games of the season, Jackson produced lights-out numbers. His 1,015 total yards (697 passing and 318 rushing) were compiled over just three halves of football (he sat the final two quarters of a season-opening blowout victory). As far as scoring goes, the first week was about the arm, throwing for six touchdowns with no interceptions. The second favored the legs, with four rushing TDs to compliment his 199 yards on the ground. But this was against Charlotte and a rebuilding Syracuse. This wasn't big, bad Florida State, who rolled into town this weekend for an early-season showdown.
Ended up, that didn't matter. Jackson's speed and athleticism torched the stout Seminole defense for 362 total yards and, more importantly, five combined scores. As of writing this, the young signal caller has amassed 1,377 total yards of offense (913 passing and 464 rushing) and 18 total touchdowns (8 & 10, respectively). His rushing totals lead the ACC (almost as many yards as Cook and Pitt's James Conner combined). If fact, Jackson's eye-popping numbers have him receiving praise from a notable figure outside of the Commonwealth.
The sophomore may be the latest in the "evolution of the quarterback" argument. Since the revolution of the pocket passing game, there have been dual-threat QBs. However, one time period appeared to advance the narrative on that term. It was a time when (Heisman winner) Eric Crouch, Michael Bishop, and Antwaan Randel El were terrorizing defenses with their capabilities. In essence, it was this "generation" of QBs that would begat the likes of Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Josh Cribbs, Brad Smith, Jordan Lynch, Colin Kaepernick, Jordan Lynch, Robert Griffin III, and Johnny Manziel.
It was one man, though, above all of those names who got the adulation as the man that would revolutionize the position. Michael Vick never rushed for the amount of yards that almost all of those players named above (he was comparable to Bishop and Griffin). It was his speed and athleticism that made most fans gaze stupefied at the professional upside he possessed. No matter his off-field transgressions at the time or to come later, his skill set was unique. Now, 17 years later, Vick himself sees that same potential in the current Cardinals playmaker. His tweet regarding Jackson being better than he was at that stage may speak volumes to NFL scouts. In this Social Media age, it might also speak volumes to Heisman voters.
So far, it has been a brilliant start for this new face on the college football scene. But you never know what could be around the corner. Louisville will have to face defending national runner-up Clemson on Oct. 1st. This may be the stumbling block that stymies Jackson's possibility to win the award. It might also provide the shootout necessary to keep him ahead of the pack. Either way, in the here and now, Lamar Jackson has turned himself from wallflower status to the life of the party. Wonder how late the part will last...