Lamar Jackson's Heisman encore: Louisville wants QB to be ready for the NFL
Louisville has been working with Lamar Jackson under center to get him ready for the NFL
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The last time Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson was in the national spotlight, he wowed fans with this sense of style, breaking out a red blazer for the Heisman Trophy ceremony as he was named the winner of the prestigious award. Jackson's production was unprecedented: he was the first player in FBS history with 3,300 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in a season and one of only six players in FBS history (the first in ACC history) to rush and pass for 20 touchdowns.
And all of this before his 20th birthday.
Jackson was a little more understated with his dress at ACC Media Days on Thursday in Charlotte, dressed in a sharp dark suit with the long hair trimmed to close crop. He's lost the braces, much more comfortable at the podium in a room full of reporters than he was at this event a year ago and speaking confidently as one of the league's established superstars.
With the Heisman Trophy and a record-breaking season behind him, Jackson is able to turn his attention to the 2017 season and, put so simply by the quarterback himself, "win more games than last year" with the biggest goal being the national championship.
But Bobby Petrino and Louisville's staff is not shying away from working on Jackson's future. Petrino says Louisville operates with F.T.S. -- "Feed The Studs" -- philosophy that will continue to highlight Jackson's unique physical abilities in the quarterback option and zone-read attack, but there was also work put in this offseason to move Jackson under center.
Some of that is to build in some play action and run schemes to the offense, but Petrino said the decision to work on that aspect of Jackson's game was also to better prepare him for the NFL Draft.
"There's some really good run schemes that you can do and some play-action schemes you can do with the quarterback underneath the center," Petrino said. "[But] it's also to help him prepare for the next level, there's no doubt about that."
At a time where the NFL continues to criticize how the college game is impacting a quarterback's ability to make the transition, Jackson is getting the extra work in now so that he can follow in the footsteps of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota as Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks to experience success not only in the NFL Draft but on the field as a professional.
According to CBS Sports' early projections, Jackson is rated as the No. 23 overall prospect in the 2018 draft class, a full tier below other quarterbacks like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen and Wyoming's Josh Allen.
"Jackson will be one of, if not the most, polarizing prospects in the 2018 class -- if he chooses to declare," CBS Sports'. "The reigning Heisman winner has in-his-prime Michael Vick-type running ability. And although he's come a long way as a passer in his two years as Louisville's starter, he'll need to display more consistency with his accuracy to go early in the draft."
The Heisman Trophy, braces and video game-like moves and stats defined Jackson's young career, now there's a real chance in 2017 not only to improve on last year's win total but significantly improve his professional future -- and it's likely those two things could go hand-in-hand.
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