After coming off of a game against Boston College where Lamar Jackson put up huge numbers – 416 total yards & 7 total touchdowns to be exact – leading the Cardinals to a 52-7 victory, ESPN analyst Booger McFarland went on ESPN’s Russillo & Kannell radio show proclaiming that Louisville was just “Lamar Jackson and a bunch of dudes.” While Louisville has been a team that college football analysts have often overlooked or have found reason to diss in years past, this comment couldn’t have been more wrong and bordered on straight disrespect. You can’t overlook the fact that Louisville did collapse down the stretch last season and problems with protection up front left Lamar looking like he was the only player who could produce quality numbers at time. Even with that being said, the comment from McFarland couldn’t have been more wrong.
Coming into this season Jaylen Smith was given the task of replacing Lamar’s go-to receivers last season, Jamari Staples and James Quick. While both were never considered “great” receivers by any means, last year alone they combined for 81 receptions, 1,384 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
Fast forward to today and it look like Louisville may be in better hands with junior Jaylen Smith who after two games has looked nearly unstoppable.
In the offseason and through fall camp Dez Fitzpatrick, a redshirt freshmen who hadn’t stepped onto the field yet for Louisville and sophomore Seth Dawkins received a lot of praise from the coaching staff and local media. Yet, Jaylen Smith sort of slid under the radar. But that wouldn’t be for long.
Against Purdue Smith hauled in 8 catches for 117 yards often times making the opposing corners look silly with his speed and size.
After Saturday’s performance against North Carolina where he caught 9 balls for 183 yards including a 73 yard touchdown, Jaylen Smith broke the record for the most receiving yards (300) through the first two games in school history. What makes this more impressive is when you look back at other Bobby Petrino coached UofL teams that had dynamic playmakers at wide receiver like DeVante Parker, Harry Douglas, Mario Urrutia, J.R. Russell, and Montrell Jones, those guys statistics didn’t even come close to that of Jaylen Smith.
Top 5 Wide Receiving Statistics through First 2 Games of the Season in the Bobby Petrino Era
2017: Jaylen Smith 17 Receptions, 300 Yards, 1 Touchdown
2016: Jamari Staples 9 Receptions, 219 Yards, 0 Touchdowns
2003: J.R. Russell 9 Receptions, 178 Yards, 1 Touchdown
2005: Mario Urrutia 7 Receptions, 175 Yards, 2 Touchdowns
2006: Mario Urrutia 7 Receptions, 161 Yards, 1 Touchdown
Jaylen Smith has been the beneficiary of the Louisville coaching staff putting a larger emphasis on Lamar Jackson staying in the pocket and making multiple reads before taking off on the run. If Smith’s production continues at this rate (on track for 170 catches, 1800 yards, 6 touchdowns) NFL coaches and scouts will have no choice but to take a long hard look at the former 2 star recruit as a high NFL Draft pick come 2018.
While many on the national scene doubted Lamar could make the improvements needed to become a future NFL caliber quarterback, we are seeing first-hand Lamar take control of football games with both his legs and his arm.
With those improvements in the passing game Jaylen Smith and company are now getting the opportunity to show analysts across the country like Booger McFarland that this team is far from “Lamar Jackson and a bunch of dudes.”
Clemson you’ve been warned.
Jacob Lane joined The Cardinal Connect in August of 2017 after previously writing for CardinalSports.com on the Rivals Network. Jacob covers anything and everything Louisville Cardinals. Follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Lane08