Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson wowed college football last season on his way to the Heisman Trophy. But multiple coaches anonymously told Athlon Sports he won’t be able to do that this season.
“I think the thing that really showed up is people initially thought, ‘We can’t blitz Lamar because of his feet,’ but at the end of the day the blitz is what wrecked his world,” one ACC coach said this week. “I think you go back and look very closely at what Todd Orlando did for Houston against them on that Thursday night. It just absolutely blew them up.”
Houston sacked Jackson 11 times in a 36-10 drubbing of Louisville in November. The Cougars led 17-0 early in the second quarter, and the Cardinals had no chance to come back due to their inability to protect the quarterback.
Louisville has worked on shoring up that offensive line, but another ACC coach is not convinced they will be much better in pass protection in 2017.
“They had issues up front, and people finally figured out how you had to play them,” he said. “Recipe-wise, if you sit back and play zone and you just worry about rush lanes, that’s just playing right into [Jackson’s] hands. People will play them differently out of the gates this year, and it’s going to put a lot of stress on their offensive line to protect him better.”
It sounds as if Louisville’s line is going to be tested early in ACC play. As Houston proved, even the extremely athletic Jackson can’t get away from the best pass rushers and blitzes.
The Cardinals allowed 47 sacks in 2016, which was eight more than any other team in the ACC.