Is Bobby Petrino Building An Offense Around Lamar?

(Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
(Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Well it is well after midnight on the night that the 2016 Men’s basketball season so unfairly ended. I will try to contain myself and save that for another post. As I sit here thumbing through Twitter and planning out my schedule for the next few months I can’t help but to get excited for Spring. I go to almost every University of Louisville Baseball game and will be in attendance at the YUM for the Lady Cards if we get that far but Spring is in the air. Spring practice leads to the Spring game. The Spring game leads to summer. Summer leads to the beginning of the 2016 College Football season. How will we handle a season without a QB controversy? Will we have yet another QB controversy. How will Jawon pan out? Those are the questions on my mind. I seen an article by the Courier-Journals Steve Jones that got me excited as well. Is CBP building a team around Lamar Jackson? I would have to say the answer is yes. Did you see the WR core he just signed? I will say now that they have the potential to be the best group of all time. That’s high praise but just I feel. I will share with you the article below and you tell me how you feel. I am somehow ready for Football about 4 months too early

INDIANAPOLIS – Lamar Jackson’s dominant, dual-threat performance in the Music City Bowl has left one of the country’s most prominent national college football writers to ponder just how good Louisville may be in 2016 when Jackson returns for his sophomore year.

Sports Illustrated reporter Andy Staples tends to thinks the answer is quite good, maybe even top-15 kind of good. The problem is the Cardinals still face the huge challenge of residing in the ACC Atlantic Division.

Staples said he was highly impressed with Jackson as he ran for 226 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 227 yards and two more scores in a 27-21 win over Texas A&M, so the Cards could be positioned to take the next step.

“I was thinking, this doesn’t look like a Bobby Petrino offense, but if he’s willing to build the offense around what Lamar Jackson can do in it, that makes them a really tough out,” Staples said during a recent interview at NFL Scouting Combine. “They have the problem of being in the same division as Clemson and Florida State, so they need someone special at quarterback or you just not going to score on those defenses.

“So if you build an offense around what Lamar Jackson has showed you he can do as a freshman, there’s a chance against even elite defenses like that. I think that gives them a shot to really do something in the ACC.”

Louisville, which could return as many as 18 starters from an 8-5 team, is No. 19 in SI’s early rankings for 2016, and that’s consistent with other media prognostications. National runner-up Clemson is No. 3 for 2016, according to SI, and Florida State is No. 5.

The Cards have taken Clemson down to the final possession the last two seasons, and they led the Seminoles at halftime two years in a row before being overtaken in the second half. So could 2016 be a breakthrough season for Louisville against the two powers of the Atlantic?

“It’s tough,” Staples said. “Florida State is going to be really good next year. Clemson has shown it can reload on defense, and they still have (quarterback) Deshaun Watson. The problem for Louisville is that’s the mountain you have to climb now, but I really think that if you have a special guy at quarterback, and Petrino in that bowl game seemed willing to do things a little differently than he has before. Petrino is a great offensive mind, so if he’s building an offense around what specifically Lamar Jackson can do, yeah, that’s pretty scary if you’re an opposing defense.”

Jackson was in and out of Louisville’s starting lineup last season due to some nagging injuries and some inconsistent play. But he was nearly unstoppable at the end of the year, coming off the bench to run for 186 yards and lead U of L to a comeback win over Kentucky, then running all over Texas A&M in the bowl.

“When you saw him early in the season, you thought this is a very good athlete, but you could tell he was still getting used to trying to play quarterback at that level and the speed of the game,” Staples said. “Against Texas A&M – and granted that was an A&M team that had been through a lot in the intervening time from the end of the season to the bowl game – but (Jackson) looked so comfortable. Maybe we’re putting too much into one bowl performance; we do that every year with somebody. But he didn’t look like a true freshman anymore out there, and that comfort seemed to suggest that there’s more that they can do with this guy.

“You just saw when they took advantage of all the stuff he could do, what kind of numbers he put up. Obviously Texas A&M’s defense is not Florida State’s defense, and it’s not Clemson’s defense. But look, you get him comfortable, get him where he’s a threat to throw and run, even those defenses are going to have a hard time.”

The Cards also got an offseason boost with the return of four key juniors on defense who turned down the NFL draft – linebackers DeVonte Fields and Keith Kelsey, safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and tackle DeAngelo Brown. Staples said having them back is “huge in terms of leadership and experience.”

“The experience part is what you can’t really replace,” he said. “Those guys are talented and experienced. You can replace them with talented guy, but there’s a learning curve. You already know that Fields, Kelsey know what they need to do. You don’t have to teach them. They’ve been in pretty much every game situation that you can imagine. That’s an incredibly valuable thing for any team.”

Overall, Staples said he believes Louisville is “in really good shape” heading into 2016, except for the fact that Florida State and Clemson will be really good shape, too.

“That’s the problem,” he said. “The ACC Atlantic very well could have three top-15 type teams.”

Staples said U of L’s performances early in the season will show if the Cards and Jackson have truly built off the strong performance against Texas A&M, or if expectations for the team have been inflated because of a “bowl bump.”

“Sometimes you fall in love with the last time you saw a team, and it may have just been a situational thing and not something they can repeat,” Staples said. “But it certainly looks like something that can repeat.

‘… What do the coaches always say – it’s not about X’s and O’s but the Jimmys and Joes. Charlie Strong got them a lot of good Jimmys and Joes, and I think Petrino has kept that going. They’ve got talent. That’s not an issue. Now it’s just about getting over the hump in the incredibly top-heavy ACC division they’re in.”

Steve Jones can be reached at (502) 582-7176 and

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