BOZICH | Big picture, Lamar Jackson at QB gives Louisville best - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Big picture, Lamar Jackson at QB gives Louisville best chance to win

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Freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson is Louisville's long-term best bet as a starter. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford.) Freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson is Louisville's long-term best bet as a starter. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford.)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Small picture, Reggie Bonnafon was a fine choice to start at quarterback in Louisville’s season opener against Auburn. Bonnafon showed enough against Notre Dame and Boston College last season to earn first call.

Ditto for Lamar Jackson getting the start against Houston, and then Kyle Bolin starting last Thursday against Clemson.

Small picture, you can argue for all of those decisions. Include Will Gardner, if you like. No need to snub him.

But after three games, all U of L defeats by a touchdown or less, it’s time to open the lens and look beyond 60 minutes of football. Better to look downfield, beyond a one-game matchup and see the entire 2015 and 2016 field.

Bobby Petrino could start James Burgess at quarterback and beat Samford Saturday.

But, remember, stop thinking small picture. Which guy gives Louisville the best chance to be a consistent winner?

Which quarterback has the most long-term WOW in his game? Who is the guy who figures to develop into the best Louisville quarterback in October 2016 as well as November 2015.

My vote is Lamar Jackson, the freshman with the electric legs and thunderous (but currently erratic) arm.

Jackson should be the starting quarterback Saturday against the Cardinals’ FCS visitors from Birmingham – and I believe that Jackson will be the starter against the Bulldogs.

Jackson is the guy with the most play-making skills. Currently, Jackson will make more plays with his legs than he will with his arm. That’s OK. The Cardinals need yards any way they can get them until the sluggish offensive line improves.

But Petrino has just started to coach Jackson. When the freshman learns not to force throws, read defenses and vary the pace of his delivery, Jackson should be a fine passer, too, at least a 60 percent completion guy the way most of Petrino’s finished products have been.

It won’t be a smooth or direct flight. There will be more interceptions. Probably some fumbles, too. But Jackson looks like a guy who will eventually make plays the other three quarterbacks cannot make.

Louisville has hit that part of the season where eventually matters.

I never thought this would be the fifth consecutive game of Musical Quarterback by Petrino. The coach never allowed the competition to unfold this way earlier in his career.

He is not trying to confuse opposing defensive coordinators. The coach would prefer to have His Guy.

“I mean, that’s what we would like to see happen,” Petrino said. “That’s what we would have like to have seen take care of itself, but we really haven’t had any separation the way we wanted."

“I did feel like going into the last game that it was going to be a close game and that Kyle gave us the best chance to make a play or two throwing the ball that would help us win the game.”

It’s so unlike anything we saw from Petrino during his first four seasons at Louisville, his four-year run at Arkansas or even his one season at Western Kentucky.

During Petrino’s first turn at Louisville, one quarterback threw at least 80 percent of the passes every season but one – 2004. That was Brian Brohm’s freshman season. He threw 98 passes. The starter, Stefan LeFors, threw 257.

In four seasons at Arkansas, Petrino always had His Guy – Casey Dick in 2008, Ryan Mallett the next two seasons and Tyler Wilson in 2011. The starter made at least 80 percent of the throws every season.

In his one season at WKU, Petrino picked Brandon Doughty and did not backtrack. Doughty attempted nearly 92 percent of the passes the Hilltoppers threw in 2013.

Here are the Louisville numbers after three games in 2015: Bolin has attempted 52 passes (46 percent of the total), Jackson 48 (42.5 percent) and Bonnafon 13 (11.5 percent).

Confusing? Not to opposing defenses. Louisville is averaging 24 points per game. During Petrino’s first 50 games at Louisville, his offenses averaged 41.1 per game.

I believe the Quarterback Merry-go-Round is about to end – and Lamar Jackson should have his talented hands on the controls.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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