Clemson's elite defense doesn't figure to allow for a shootout with Louisville akin to the last time cousins Trayvon Mullen and Lamar Jackson faced off on the field, but Jackson's wizardry makes anything possible.Mullen, a Clemson sophomore cornerback, is expected to make his first college start as part of a unit looking to rein in the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jackson, who has topped 300 yards passing and 100 rushing in each of his first two games.
Anybody wondering if Jackson was a late bloomer morphing into college football's most exciting player and arguably its best overall can heed the words of Mullen.
"How he is now is how he was before. He's always been that type of player."
Both were highly recruited from Florida, growing up in towns 10 miles apart before attending different high schools 25 miles from one another. The age difference is 8-and-a-half months, with Jackson entering Louisville for the 2015 season, one year before Mullen landed at Clemson.
Their last on-field meeting was one of the craziest Sunshine State high school games of recent memory, with Jackson leading Boynton Beach to two late touchdowns for a 63-58 victory over Coconut Creek. Jackson accounted for seven touchdowns (five running and two passing) and unofficially rushed for 150 yards while throwing for 325.
"We always played against each other our whole life," Mullen said. "Little league football, super bowls, regular season...we never played on the same team, always played against each other. I feel I know him and I know what he does, the type of player he is, from being around him my whole life. Just the way he moves, he's a really good athlete."
When asked if he thinks Jackson is the nation's best player, Mullen replied, "Arguably, I think so. There's a lot of good players out there and I feel we have a lot of great players as well."
Mullen, 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, is listed as the starter after grad student Marcus Edmond suffered a sprained foot early in Saturday's win over Auburn. Edmond was the hero of last year's 42-36 Clemson win over the Cardinals when he forced James Quick out-of-bounds at Clemson's 3-yard-line with 33 seconds left on fourth down, a yard shy of a first down.
Mullen played 58 snaps against Auburn in a game dominated by Clemson's defense after playing 28 in the season opener and just 115 during his entire freshman season. He hopes to grab a quick pregame chat with Jackson since the two haven't seen each other much aside from some brief summer visits home.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said, adding they've spoken this week. "We talk a lot. I tell him we're ready to get after him and I'm just ready to compete with him and it's going to be a challenge. We talk every day even when we're not playing. We don't talk so much about football."
If the cousins are able to exchange words before the game it will likely be the lone conversation they have before the end, with Mullen saying trash talking isn't really a part of his repertoire.
"I've never really been that type of player. When I get into my game I'm just real focused, so I don't do things like that."
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.