Freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson came to Louisville to compete. The product of Boyton Beach, Fla, where he was rated as a four-star prospect by Scout.com, has made his presence known in the Cardinals quarterback competition during the early stages of fall camp.
The coaching staff new that their rookie quarterback had the potential to turn some heads during the open practices. They heard the reviews from his fellow teammates following a couple months of summer workouts. With fans and media watching on the past few days, the 6-foot-3, 196-pound athlete has displayed a great arm, effectively hitting receivers in all situations.
“He has a really quick release,” said U of L offensive coordinator Garrick McGee. “Really strong hand, which means the ball flies off his hand. He can throw the ball at every spot on the field. He throws deep balls really well. Then he has the ability to run, that is probably unmatched.”
Jackson, however, is also experiencing what all freshman do during their first fall camp. The size and speed of the game has drastically changed from the high school level. The playbook is much more in-depth and the expectations are, as McGee described on Tuesday, “extreme.”
“When he's serious, he's a very good player,” McGee said, adding that the biggest challenges for him are becoming accustomed to the faster and more precise “college game.”
Jackson a confident person, both on and off the field, agreed with his coach.
“It's going pretty good right now,” he said, admitting that the most difficult learning adjustment has been “getting used to college plays.”
“It got a lot quicker,” he said of the pace of practice.
He enters the quarterback competition with a group of veterans ahead of him. Will Gardner, Reggie Bonnafon and Kyle Bolin all played last year and are quick to share their experience and expectations with the newcomer.
“I'm learning a lot of plays from them,” Jackson said. “When we're on the sidelines, they teach me the reads.”
He's also learning quickly from evening film study when he joins his fellow quarterbacks to review the day's practice on film.
“You get to see your mistakes and make up for them the next day,” he said. “(The coaches) tell you to keep going. Instead of beating yourself up, just keep going.”
In addition to a great arm, Jackson also has blazing speed, a trait that will eventually add another dimension to the Cardinals offense. A few weeks prior to camp opening, Jackson displayed that speed in a unique way. While walking near his residence building, Jackson and others found themselves being challenged to a foot race by Louisville native and NBA guard Rajon Rondo. After initially declining, Jackson, who clocked a 4.4 40-yard in high school, eventually accepted and won pulling away.
When asked how much he beat Rondo by, Jackson replied, “a lot,” then laughed.
His abilities to compete so quickly at fall camp is an clear indicator of his potential impact. Jackson's plans are to continue pushing himself and the others on the roster, with the hope that he'll be able to hear his name called during games this season.
“Hopefully I'll play,” he said. “I just need to keep competing.”