As hard as it is to come to grips with the Lamar Jackson era at Louisville has officially ended. For the last three years we’ve gotten to watch one of the greatest college football players of all time take the field wearing Louisville red and black. But when the Cards take the field for the first time in 2018 in Orlando against the reigning national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, who will be the quarterback tasked with following in Lamar Jackson’s giant footsteps?
It appears to be, Jawon “Puma” Pass. A redshirt sophomore who has sat behind the former Heisman Trophy winner the last two years on the Louisville depth chart, just waiting for his time to come. That time is now.
Pass will face a giant test in Alabama, but he’ll enter the role as Louisville’s starting quarterback with some of the same accolades that Jackson had taking over as a true freshman back in 2015. In fact, Pass was the higher rated player of the two on most recruiting sites coming out of Carver High School in Columbus, Georgia choosing the Cards over big time programs including Alabama, Auburn, and Clemson.
— Louisville Fan Base (@UofLFanBASE) January 30, 2016
Puma has drawn comparisons to Cam Newton, mostly because of his large frame 6’5 230 pounds, but also because of his ability to pass and run. While Pass definitely doesn’t have the speed of Lamar Jackson, few players do, he presents the athletic ability to run when needed while being able to stand strong in the pocket and make throws all across the field.
As a redshirt freshman Louisville fans got their first look at their future quarterback, mostly in mop up duty, and most were impressed with what they saw. Pass passed (get used to saying that, it’s odd) for 238 yards, completing almost 70% of his passes, throwing for two scores and rushing for another during the six games he appeared in.
— Greg Brandt (@devywarehouse) November 19, 2017
The strange thing is Jawon “Puma” Pass may actually be a better in a Bobby Petrino offense than many would expect, especially after how the offense has been tailored for the skills and abilities of Lamar Jackson the last few years. Pass is known for his top notch throwing abilities, specifically his arm strength and quick release. While he did enter the college ranks as a rather raw prospect, his potential was undeniable.
Pass will have his work cut out for him with many things needing improvement, including his footwork, knowledge of the offense and carelessness with the ball, which we saw against Murray State, but it’s easy to see why many people close to Pass are raving about his future.
Jake Lourim of the Courier Journal wrote about the future with Jawon Pass at Quarterback last week, featuring this quote from Bobby Petrino.
“I was glad to see that when you put pressure on him, he can throw the ball,” Petrino said. “That was good for him, something that you always want to be able to do coming out of there. He made great decisions. Even on (one pass), the corner was kind of hanging in nowhere land, and he went outside and made a good decision to take Josh on it instead of trying to force the hitch out there.”
After getting his first game action against Kent State earlier this season, Lamar Jackson raved about his quarterback mate saying, “I been telling yall about him since summer during camp. Puma’s a great player, he goes through his reads and stuff like that, spin the ball, he’s a smart player. I love him out there, I know you all see me, I cheer more than the cheerleaders.”
While many expect Pass to be eventually announced as the starting quarterback leading up to the September 1st season opener against ‘Bama, don’t think there won’t be competition.
Dual threat quarterbacks Malik Cunningham, and Jordan Travis are formidable challengers, and both should be able to push Pass through fall camp, hoping to get the opportunity to prove why they should be the next starter. Cunningham, who redshirted this season, was a consensus three star qual threat quarterback recruit in the class of 2017, while Jordan Travis will be an incoming freshman this season after signing with the Cards last month, picking them over several big time programs including Florida.
This offseason will be filled with many questions about how Louisville moves forward and replaces the Heisman Trophy winner, but the way I see it, the quarterback position is in good hands with Puma Pass.