New life for Louisville offense after Lamar Jackson

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

Expect the University of Louisville football team to have a better offense this season without Lamar Jackson, winner of the Heisman Trophy and the player who rewrote the record books in three seasons at UofL.

That’s coming from Coach Bobby Petrino who, while he would never acknowledge it, had limited options on offense, especially the past two years.  It was no secret that the offense revolved heavily around the abilities of one player. 

It was Lamar Jackson this, Lamar Jackson that, this way, that way, through the air, on the ground. Not much imagination on offense, not much guesswork on defense. Everybody knew what was coming. Lamar Jackson all the time.

The UofL offense bore little resemblance to Bobby Petrino’s offenses  prior to the Lamar Jackson era.  Probably for a couple of reasons. Jackson may have never really mastered Petrino’s playbook. Jackson even admitted he didn’t know the plays after his freshman year. He was still setting offensive records at a sizzling pace so Petrino had little option but to turn Jackson loose.

Jackson was far from perfect at crunch time. As good as he was, Jackson often had trouble maintaining  possession, fumbling an inordinate number of times and giving up interceptions. Between the turnovers, though, he was extraordinarily gifted.

“I expect us to be better,” said Petrino, during the ACC gathering in Charlotte this week. “I expect us to be more balanced, the ability to get more guys involved, particularly in the running game. I really like our receiving corps. I really think it’s one of the strongest corps coming back.”

Petrino also believes the running backs will be more of a factor again. “The running backs are a good group” he said. “Tre Smith had a great spring. He really showed his ability to run between the tackles and get yards after contact and protect the quarterback.

“Dae Williams and Colin Wilson are two big physical guys, and Colin has some special skills as far as his movement in and out of holes. Tobias Little is a guy that played fullback for us last year, and then we started giving him the football, and he’s a 245-pound guy that can play tailback and catch the ball out of the backfield.”

Jawon Pass

Watch for UofL to look more like the typical Petrino team during the upcoming season, with a more traditional quarterback in Jawon Pass. The 6-foot-4 sophomore was a consensus four-star prospect out of Carver High School in Columbus, Georgia.

A player who will rely as much on the system as his own talents to manage the offense. “He’s a natural leader,” said Petrino. “When he stepped on campus, you could see that. He’s very, very competitive.”

More talent all around is what Petrino is saying. More of a multi-dimensional approach with more of the right people involved at all the key positions.

Lamar Jackson was an incredible athlete, entertaining and fun to watch, and he will be missed. Back to the basics now, spreading the wealth around, with more of a team approach, hopefully making Louisville more competitive in the immediate future.

Jawon Pass picks the Louisville hat

At the big announcement Thursday, Jawon Pass kept shuffling the hats on the table in front of him, hats from Louisville, Alabama and Auburn. He seemed to give the UofL hat a little extra care, placing it in the middle.

Over the past few months, Pass had received offers from 20 schools, arriving at his final three after eliminating such programs as Notre Dame, Ohio State, Florida, LSU, Clemson, Miami, North Carolina, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech.Screenshot 2015-07-16 16.10.12

The pressure from top programs was relentless. Pass had just visited Alabama the day before his announcement, Auburn during the past week. In the end, Alabama and Auburn would not make the cut.

When time came to make his decision, UofL fans held their breath as Pass slowly declared,

“For the next three or four years, I will be attending … the … University … of … Louisville.”

Carefully and lovingly placing the red hat with the Cardinal logo on his head to stay, confident in his decision.

There it was, Bobby Petrino, along with assistants Garrick McGee and L. D. Scott, had won one of the school’s biggest recruiting battles ever, over two of college football’s most respected programs. A five-star quarterback who checks in at an impressive 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds with 4.5 speed is on his way to Louisville.

Pass said he chose UofL for a number of reasons, including his respect for the UofL coaching staff, which he believes will prepare him for the next level. It didn’t hurt UofL that his brother, Khane Pass, had committed to UofL in August last year and will be a freshman safety of the roster this season.

Major college football recruiting, being what it is, fans can expect some programs to continue to recruit Jawon Pass. But they will probably be wasting their time. The commitment seems to be pretty solid in favor of Louisville. He loves that UofL hat.

“It’s a good fit for me,” Pass said. “I’ve got a good relationship with the coaches and that’s just where my heart was at.”