CRAWFORD | Have a Lamar hangover? Four potential cures
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – If there’s scientific verification, it hasn’t been published. But in the air and on the streets, the phenomenon is readily visible. You can sense it.
After three years of watching the most exciting player in college football (and arguably one of the most exciting players in the history of college football), University of Louisville football fans, media, and even just observers of the program are having a little trouble getting quite as juiced for life post-Lamar.
Non-scientific evidence: At the WDRB.com website, there’s more measurable readership for stories about Jackson – even with the Baltimore Ravens – than (most) preseason stories about the Louisville football team’s coming season.
Maybe that’s just a function of everyone wanting to take a break. Some of it, no doubt, involves unknowns about the coming season. Surely, it’ll break away as the season draws closer.
Still, at ACC Media Days, Louisville without Jackson was picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic Division. Players have noted it. Jaylen Smith said that some people treat the Cardinals “as if we’ve fallen off the face of the earth.”
The Heisman still sits in its trophy case, a display of Jackson’s other awards and accomplishments around it. But everyone needs to take a cue from Smith and the Louisville players and begin to rub their temples and emerge from the hangover.
Four suggested cures:
1). Have one more “Lamar Jackson Day” before moving on. Every time I try to write about the coming season, at some point, I shake my head at something Jackson did on the field, or even the numbers he put up.
Of Louisville’s 7,084 yards of total offense last season, Jackson was responsible for 5,261. That’s just a tick over 74 percent. That’s amazing. Of Louisville’s 3,186 rushing yards, he had 1,601, or 50.3 percent.
What we saw Jackson do, we’ll probably never see another individual do again, at least in Louisville. He was potentially a SportsCenter top play every time the ball was snapped.
It’s all right to honor that and even acknowledge that it was a special thing to have been a part of. One more moment to appreciate that doesn’t hurt anything.
2). Consider who is up next. Jackson is a once-in-a-generation type of player, maybe even more than that. But for all the yards he gained for Louisville a year ago, Smith pointed out that there were guys working to help him gain them, and others who were sacrificing some personal numbers to assist him.
Moreover, Smith said, people need to pay attention to Jackson’s successor, Jawon “Puma” Pass.
“Lamar is a once-in-a-lifetime talent, we know that,” Smith said. “But Puma’s a once-in-a-lifetime talent, too. They’re two different players, they do completely different things. They’re both amazing in their own regard. I feel like we’ll pick up right where we left off.”
3). Think team. While the Heisman Trophy was a high-water mark of Louisville football history, it isn’t the ultimate goal. Louisville, despite beating Florida State twice (including a win in Tallahassee) still didn’t break through in the ACC Atlantic Division, and in fact lost ground with losses to Wake Forest and Boston College.
So in the end, there’s ultimately lots of upward mobility for this Cardinal program, even without its best player ever.
Whether the Cards can make any upward progress without him, however, remains to be seen – at least for this coming season.
But here’s something to remember. The Louisville receiving corps of Smith, Dez Fitzpatrick and Seth Dawkins, among others, is of a quality that harkens back to some of the best that Louisville has had. Head coach Bobby Petrino has some depth at running back, with Dae Williams and Colin Wilson back healthy, plus some others. And for all the yards Jackson rushed for, other backs still accounted for better than 1,500 yards last season.
4). If all else fails – bourbon. I wouldn’t advise getting rid of one hangover by taking on another, but I had some friends in college who swore by it. You can probably find them in the Cardinal Stadium tailgate lots if you look hard enough.
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