Following a true freshman season that saw him appear in 12 games, making eight starts, helping guide Louisville to a sixth consecutive bowl, quarterback Lamar Jackson has quickly become the face of the program. He helped represent the program at the recent ACC Kickoff event in Charlotte, N.C., and held court at the largest table in the press box during the player interview portion of U of L's annual media day on Saturday morning.
The Pampano, Fla., native proved that he's an electric player that can immediately change the course of the game. There's no disputing that. His resume following just one season is impressive enough. He established new school quarterback rushing records, was a three-time ACC Player of the Week and capped his rookie year with a Most Valuable Player performance in the Cardinals 27-21 victory over Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl.
With a year of experience, the expectation for Jackson has climbed the point where he's gracing the cover of preseason magazines and garnering votes for the ACC preseason team. It isn't just the yardage he'll pick up with his arm and legs, but more to do with how he'll manage the offense while also pushing himself to improve.
First year quarterbacks coach Nick Petrino, who played in his father's offense for two season's at Arkansas, has been pleased with the leadership that the sophomore signal-caller has displayed.
"That's something that we talk about in the meeting room all the time," said Nick. "He's done a really good job these first three days in really picking up his leadership and becoming the face of the program."
Part of Jackson's realization of added role was when he was selected as one of the team captains.
"When coach told me I was a captain, I was shocked at first," Jackson said. "Now I know what I'm supposed to do. Be a leader."
It's visible in his presence and performance on the field.
"He definitely has an understanding of what's going on and what we're doing offensively," said U of L head coach Bobby Petrino. "A year ago at this time he didn't really know the play.
"Now you give him a play and he pictures it in his mind. He knows exactly where the receivers are going to be. To me that's the most important thing for a quarterback is you're able to picture the play in your mind. Now it just comes down to distributing the ball off the defense. He's doing a good job of that for the most part."
Following an up-and-down first day throwing the ball, Jackson has been more effective with each passing day. While he's been dropping 25-yard passes into the hands of well defended receivers, Petrino wants to see the sophomore push himself even more.
"He's just got to learn to be patient and take the reads and challenge himself to make some throws," said Petrino. "If you don't challenge yourself in practice whether I can fit the ball in there and if you don't have some balls intercepted in practice you never know what my limitations are, or aren't, so we've got to understand that we give him some help in challenging himself to make that throw. Sometimes we'll even say, 'pull the string, you can make that throw,' just to see if he can or can't. He's got to continue to work hard on that."
As a freshman, Jackson threw for 1,840 yards and 12 touchdowns while also adding an additional 960 yards and 11 scores on the ground.