Clemson vs. Louisville preview: Tigers focused on stopping Lamar Jackson
CLEMSON – Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables spent the majority of his weekly Tuesday press conference inundated with questions regarding Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
As he walked away after finishing up 10 minutes describing Jackson's greatness and the difficulty in preparing for the multi-talented reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Venables told reporters, "I'll go throw up now."
Earlier when asked if he had fun with the challenge of figuring out a way to stop the virtually unstoppable Jackson, Venables replied, "Some of it's fun, and then the more you see of it, the more sick you get because of all the plays he makes even when it's not there."
Jackson is indeed a magician at creating something out of nothing, turning airtight spaces into open green grass while displaying footwork akin to singer Michael Jackson in his prime. Few who have played him would likely be surprised to actually see Jackson moonwalk out of a sack.
"Lamar Jackson is an unbelievable player and fun to watch," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "He's not fun to prepare for and not fun to play against. I'd much prefer to watch him, I enjoy that a lot better, but we've got our hands full with this guy."
Saturday's 8 p.m. nationally-televised game at Louisville will be just the fourth time the reigning Heisman winner has played the defending national champions, the last coming in 2013 when Alabama defeated Texas A&M and quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Of course it's unanimous in the Clemson camp believing former quarterback Deshaun Watson should've won the Heisman over Jackson, but the respect from the Tigers is huge. They had an epic duel in last season's 42-36 Clemson victory, with Watson throwing for five touchdowns while Jackson rushed for 162 yards and passed for 295. The fact it was Jackson who was eventually awarded college football's most prestigious year-end honor isn't serving for any added inspiration.
"It's not because you can't take it away from a guy like Lamar Jackson," Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell said. "Just how he played against us, had his ups and downs, but never stopped fighting and that's what I like about him. He's one of the best I've played against in college."
Ferrell continued, "He's as dynamic as they come, can make any move and that whole offense goes through him and they've given him the keys. It's his third year and that makes it even harder how well he knows the system. It's a whole other level this year trying to stop this offense."
Jackson is off to an insane start this season, becoming just the second player in FBS history to reach 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in consecutive games. In the season-opening win versus Purdue in Indianapolis, Jackson rushed 21 times for 107 yards and completed 30 of 46 passing for 378 yards and two touchdowns. In Saturday's win at North Carolina, he ran 19 times for 132 yards and three touchdowns and was 25 of 39 passing for 395 yards and three touchdowns. He hasn't thrown an interception and has been sacked just twice.
While the majority of Jackson's highlights have been dedicated to his running moves, he possesses a strong arm and so far has spent a bit more time in the pocket, being patient and not looking to immediately run if his first option is covered.
"People who say he's not a good passer are crazy," Ferrell said, while Venables got a bit more into the difficulties of trying to stop an offense which is more than just Jackson improvising. Venables pointed out the Cardinals started out both earlier games throwing, adding, "Did they have like 8,000 yards against North Carolina last week? Was it eight or nine thousand?"
"It's an excellent system, it's not just the spread QB run-game stuff," Venables said. "It's a ton of things. Some pro style to it as well that's very multiple and makes them hard to defend. He's got a great arm, tremendous natural wiry strength. You've got a free corner on a blitz and he throws a 75-yard touchdown when the corner just falls off of him. Those are the kinds of things a special player can do. It's one thing to take what's there. He can make something out of nothing all day."
Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins summed up, "He's the best player in college football and you've got to be prepared for that. You can't allow yourself to get frustrated if he makes a play. Don't get too caught up in who it is, do what you do and things will happen for you."
This article is written by Eric Boynton from Spartanburg Herald-Journal and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.