Throughout the career of Jammal Lord even spanning back to his prep days, he has been one thing that nobody can deny, a good runner. Slick, strong and at times, scintillating, the New Jersey native has been one of if not the best running back on his team, NU included.
Dating back to his days at Bayonne high school, Lord's senior year illustrated why NU's old recruiting philosophy was served well by the strengths of the strong and stout quarterback. He could run a whole lot and threw just enough to keep defenses honest.
That's all Nebraska was looking for.
NU had Eric Crouch, another QB that could run, but throwing was a matter of crossing your fingers rather than putting in a passing play with even 50/50 expectations that the passing play would work the way it was drawn up on the board.
What Jammal Lord is, is a throwback to the way NU used to recruit quarterbacks and outside of a Tommie Frazier and in certain games, Scott Frost, a Nebraska QB didn't throw to set up the run, they ran to set up the throw.
Therein lies the problem.
All the expectations flung on Lord were out of potential, but it was potential based on a few passes to Matt Herian, but they hardly meet the expectations that some have for reasons that aren't really all that clear.
During his senior season, Lord threw the ball a total of 41 times. Let me say that again. 41 times Lord threw the ball his entire senior season at Bayonne high school. Out of those 41 times, he completed just over 50% .
Conversely, Jammal ran for over 1,300 yards, this clearly his strength. It's not a mystery though, because this has always been his strength. It's the strength of most every QB NU has recruited over the last decade, there being only a few exceptions along the way.
Jammal Lord is a Nebraska QB, to a tee in fact or at least, he was.
The staff at NU hasn't been silent about their idea of getting a quarterback that is categorized as a passer who can run versus a traditional NU-type signal-caller who was clearly a running QB that could pass, if only marginally and with great inconsistencies.
That's what you get though and what Lord has and hasn't done over his career thus far shouldn't be that much of a surprise. He's doing exactly what he has done since he was a QB at the prep level.
The problem is, everyone else has been trying to at least believe that he is something he's not.
Everyone has to blame someone though, so the first person that gets it is obviously Lord himself. He's not getting it done, he's making mental mistakes and he's just too darn inconsistent. I'll tell you, if there is one thing Lord is not, it's inconsistent. Lord is the exact same Lord he's been since he was made a QB.
You want to blame someone, blame John Rickard, his coach during his high school days. Problem there is, he did exactly what he needed to do to win games.
Playing option at the high school level and playing it at the collegiate level are two totally different animals. At the high school level, you can get away with passing the ball two times a game and still bank on winning if your QB is elusive enough, fast enough and strong enough to start and finish runs. That's something Jammal could do until the cows came home.
At the collegiate level though, you actually have to do something else in order to be successful, because even with offensive lines the likes of NU pipelines from the mid to late 90s, if you can't throw, ultimately you can't run.
Lord never had to do that. Passing 41 times his entire senior season in high school, that should be evident, but back to NU's recruiting philosophy, Jammal did exactly what they wanted him to do. It's possible though that the staff overestimated their ability to turn a running back that could throw into a running quarterback.
Even with Scott Frost who QB coach Turner Gill stated he had to basically re-teach how to throw, his mechanics were ugly and his completion percentage, not great in the end. Frost could run the option though, perhaps as good as it's ever been and he was just good enough in the passing game to keep defenses honest.
The option game Jammal came from and the one even Eric Crouch came from wasn't nearly as diverse as the one Frost came from in Wood River that actually asked him to pass more than twice or on the heavy end, four times a game. At Bayonne like Millard North, it was run, run, run and when you think they are going to pass, that's when you run the opposite direction.
What exactly did you expect?
While Lord threw a total of 41 balls his senior season, Dailey completed almost twice that. While the ratio of running yards to passing yards for Lord was over 4:1, Dailey's was around 2:1, but that's passing to running. It's not a 180 degree change, but for a program so entrenched in tradition, even the slightest change can seem at times, monumental.
Thus the expectations should be not in scope of what results should be expected from the true freshman, but the leveling of expectations behind the second-year starter. Quit expecting Lord to succeed in the passing game, because consistently, it's just not going to happen.
Lord will hit a few here and there and of course, he'll drop a beauty on Matt Herian for a 40 yard gain, but game in and game out, what you see from Lord is exactly what you should see, what everyone has seen up to this point.
He's a running back that can throw.............at times.
That is though what he has always been.
The fault of why Lord hasn't done what everyone expects is only the fault of those who expect too much. Jammal Lord has done what he's always done and at that, he's been nothing but brilliant. Quite possibly the strongest and most consistent running-threat on the team, Lord does what Lord does, but he's no Vick, Quincy Carter or Vincent Young.
That's another problem.
NU fans look around the country at all these dual-threat quarterbacks, wondering what it would be like to have a signal-caller that could run for a hundred and pass for 200 in a game. If only NU had that kind of threat that had to be respected in both aspects, oh how dangerous the NU offense could be.
They have that, but he's not ready.
While everyone is ready to give Joe Dailey the starting spot for completing a couple of balls and making one exciting run, Dailey is a true freshman and Nebraska doesn't need to give him a baptism by fire just yet.
For a more assured long-term success, the most ideal way to bring the other New Jersey native in is a gradual segue into NU's offense, Dailey still having much of the playbook to absorb. Even a 2 quarterback system wouldn't be such a bad thing as it would give Dailey the chance to get equal time without putting the mental burden and pressure of being the starter upon his already heavy shoulders.
To most, it's inevitable that Dailey will take the reins for NU, the majority thinking that it will happen not too far into this year. While that's great and if he succeeds, all the better, but I do want to reiterate that nobody should ever take anything way from the guy Dailey is replacing.
What Jammal has done since he arrived was what he did his entire career. What Lord has succeeded at in abundance was exactly why NU recruited the Bayonne native in the first place. Jammal has never once strayed away from his "bread n' butter". Everyone's problem is, he couldn't ascend another level more.
Join the crowd.
The list is long and illustrious of the running quarterbacks NU has recruited that never mastered the passing game. The legendary Tommie Frazier never threw for over 50% on the season until his senior year. What Tommie did was make the most out of opportunities, led with a great deal of charisma and he was what an NU QB was always expected to be, efficient if not excellent in the passing game.
Thus the only real drawback to Lord's career as a signal-caller not to mention the fact that he didn't have Tommie's team. All in all though, Lord was consistent to what got Lord to NU in the first place.
I myself have had to adjust my way of thinking, guilty like many others in believing that Lord would do something that really is a rarity. Eric Crouch couldn't do it, Scott Frost did it to a degree, but like Frazier, he had one heck of a team around him. Jammal doesn't have that level of talent around him and let's face it, he's not a good option QB. That alone could have saved him a lot of criticism.
However, when your entire career has been Lord run right, Lord run left, Lord fad back to pass and then, run up the middle, when did he have a chance to be anything else other than a runner?
Face it fans, Jammal Lord is an exceptional athlete. He's quite possibly the best running back on the team. Jammal Lord is as exciting as he is elusive, that is, when he's running the ball.
The issue here is and will always be, expectations and the fact that Jammal Lord hasn't met the heavy ones NU fans have lofted upon him. And they were simply of Lord being something he's not. So, don't blame Lord and don't even blame a staff that couldn't make him what everyone wanted him to be.
Jammal Lord is a running back that can throw, not a thrower that can run. It's what he's always been.
The fault belongs to those who thought or even hoped he would ever be anything else. I'll raise my hand as I belong in that crowd.
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619