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Who is Lamar Jackson?

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When Florida State takes the field on Saturday, they will be facing the leader in the Heisman trophy race and one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in college football.

No, they’re not facing Deshaun Watson.

They will be lining up against Lamar Jackson, the Louisville quarterback who has accounted for more yards of total offense than entire teams across the country. While he was very promising as a true freshman in 2015 and showed flashes of greatness, he has been spectacular throughout the first two games of 2016.

Jackson currently has 697 passing yards and seven touchdowns through the air along with 318 rushing yards and six scores on the ground. In all, that combines for 1,015 total yards and 13 total touchdowns.

For comparison, if Lamar Jackson was his own team, he would rank 30th in the entire country for total yards. Only 29 teams have totaled more than 1,015 yards, one of them being Florida State. The Lamar Jackson Fightin’ Jacksons would rank above the Florida Gators, Alabama Crimson Tide, Miami Hurricanes and 95 other teams in terms of total yardage.

Along the same lines, Jackson would rank 37th in the country for points as his own team. By himself, Jackson has scored 78 total points (13 touchdowns at six points each). This is more points than teams like Florida (69), Clemson (49), and LSU (48) have scored all season.

So how does he do it?

Ever since early on in the recruiting process, Lamar Jackson’s insane athleticism has been well known. While schools like Louisville and Florida wanted him at quarterback, there were also a handful of schools that thought the Boynton Beach (FL) product could play either wide receiver or defensive back as well. Ultimately, Jackson signed with Louisville despite a late push from Florida.

Jackson made an immediate impact as soon as he stepped on campus. Despite older, more experienced quarterbacks on the depth chart, Jackson ended up taking the first quarterback snaps of Louisville’s 2015 season as a true freshman against Auburn. Throughout the course of the season, the Cardinals had several quarterbacks start but they eventually settled on Jackson as the starter at the end of the season. To close out the season against Texas A&M in their bowl game, Jackson passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 226 yards and two more touchdowns.

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In the play above, Jackson takes a simple zone read to the house. He is very good at knowing when the pull or keep the ball on the zone read. On this play, he reads the unblocked Myles Garrett and keeps this ball. Louisville has this play well blocked down the field, but Jackson scores on this long run because of his insane athleticism. No one can catch him in the open field.

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The play above is a perfect example of Jackson’s ability on the ground. He keeps the ball on the zone read and hurdles clear over a Syracuse defender for the score. While an argument can be made that the Syracuse defender made a poor tackle, at some point you just have to give Jackson a round of applause for making an extremely athletic play like that.

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Jackson is very dangerous in the open field. In a manner similar to Dalvin Cook, he destroys pursuit angles and has a knack for making a player or two miss. In the play above, Jackson takes another zone read to the house. Syracuse #55 actually has a chance to make the tackle early on in the play, but Jackson beats him to the edge with pure speed, jukes out another defender and hits the open field. From there, no one can catch him.

Part of what makes Jackson so special at the quarterback position is his calm demeanor on the field. He never seems to be rattled or fazed by the chaos happening around him. In their game last year versus Louisville, Florida State brought pressure early and often agains the then-true freshman quarterback. On an early third down, Derwin James comes free on a blitz and nearly brings Jackson down. But Jackson spun out of the tackle, keeping his eyes downfield, and found a wide receiver for a big first down.

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Although he is very dangerous on the ground, Jackson is always looking to make a play through the air first. In the play above, Jackson fakes the inside run and takes a short roll out to his right. Keeping his eyes down the field, he finds his tight end down the seam for the touchdown pass. This is what makes Jackson so difficult to defend. If you contain him on the ground, he will make you pay through the air. If you sell out against the pass, then Jackson will carve up your defense on the ground.

Florida State is well aware of Jackson’s ability as a quarterback. In their game last year, Jackson threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns against the Seminoles. Although he only had 32 yards on the ground, the 307 passing yards were a season high for the young quarterback. The Florida State defense was able to largely contain Jackson on the ground, but he made some high-caliber throws to drive the Louisville offense down the field.

With the way that Clemson’s offense is sputtering at the moment, there is chance that Lamar Jackson might lead the best offense that Florida State will face all year. They will certainly be among the most explosive that the Seminoles will line up against all season. Florida State will have to play very disciplined, because Jackson and this Louisville offense is more than capable of identifying and exploiting busted coverages for quick scores. With Derwin James out for this game as well, the coaching staff will also have to determine which player will be assigned to “spy” Jackson during passing situations.

While Jackson is certainly atop of the Heisman conversation at the moment, this Saturday’s game against Florida State could be his Heisman moment. The Seminoles will have to bring everything they have to stop this dual-threat quarterback if they want to come out of this game with a victory.

gifs courtesy of ACC Digital Network

Dakota Moyer

Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.



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