Thank you all once again for more great questions for this week’s mailbag article. If you would like to ask a question for future articles, be sure to ask via Twitter.
Q: “How will we contain Lamar Jackson in the pocket without compromising the pass coverage? Minimal man-2-man where DB’s turn their back or Linebacker spy?” – @Bryrube1
A: That seems to be the top question all off-season. How will we stop the defending Heisman trophy winner? For about three quarters of the season last year, Jackson was practically an unstoppable force of nature. When he had the ball in his hands, it was like he was in a video game, you just had no prayer of stopping him. But then, Jackson and the Cardinal offense lost their edge the last few games of the year. Why? Because teams like Wake Forest, Houston and LSU kept him in the pocket, forcing him to beat them with his arm instead of his legs. Jackson, unless he proves otherwise is nowhere near the passer as he is as a runner, and when he’s a good passer, he’s running outside the pocket. A simple man-2-man will not work, we have to get pressure, and get it quickly. If Jackson can scramble out of that pressure, then yes we need a linebacker spying. It’s no secret to anyone that Louisville wasn’t strong upfront last year, and Eddy Wilson and Gelen Robinson are very capable. I’d rather have Lamar beat us throwing in the pocket than him running all over us.
Q: “What position group needs to play at their top level for us to be successful?” – @budde24_7
A: For now, just this game, it needs to be our wide receivers. Look, Louisville is going to get their points, and our offense is going to need to score, and score a lot. It’s an area of most concern, and the depth chart is full of guys who need to step up. Anthony Mahoungou and Greg Phillips are returning seniors. Isaac Zico and Terry Wright are JuCo transfers, while Corey Holmes is a grad transfer from Notre Dame. Throw red-shirt freshmen Jackson Anthrop and Jared Sparks along with true freshmen Keyron Catlett into that mix as well. There’s a ton of guys there, but none with a lot of experience. Some of these guys are going to have to emerge and step up, if we want to score and keep things close with the Cardinals.
Q: “If you had to swap one non-QB starter with Louisville, who would it be?” – @kluprice31
A: I wouldn’t swap any of our guys for the world, but if there was one Cardinal player that I would love to see in black and gold, give me cornerback Jaire Alexander, who might just be one of the best cover corners in the ACC. Alexander is a ball-hawk, recording 5 interceptions last season with 10 pass deflections, and can tackle well in space. What stands out about Alexander is he’s the fastest Cardinal on the team (ran a 4.32 in a 40-yard dash at practice). Jaire is projected as a first round pick in next year’s NFL Draft. Throw him in with Jallow, Hunte and Okonye, that’s a solid defensive backfield.
Q: “Do you think we have a linebacker shadow Lamar Jackson the whole game, and if so who?” – @bwirema
A: If this is the gameplan, and we collapse the pocket on Lamar, we better be ready for when he scrambles out of it. If someone is going to shadow Jackson, give the assignment to Markus Bailey. Of our entire linebacking crew, Bailey is one of the best tacklers and is the fastest of the group. But we may decide to have a nickleback shadow instead of a linebacker, hopefully Brohm and Holt have that plan in place, which it sounds like they do. But if someone is shadowing Jackson, it better be someone who’s capable of chasing him down and can tackle him.
Q: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you think our new facility looks?” – @adamquinn1406
A: Is it okay if my answer is 11? What about it being higher than that? Because the facilities are above-and-beyond fantastic. It’s a game-changer, simple as that. I’m in college, I can speak for everyone else my age that we love new and fancy looking stuff. Recruits will gravitate here because of that. New coach, new facilities, times are changing here in West Lafayette, and finally for the better.
Q: “How will our running backs do?” – @grant911_
A: I mentioned earlier that the receivers need to step up big time, well, the running backs need to as well. In fact the whole team needs to, but let’s focus on the running backs. To be fairly honest, even with the depth charts released earlier today, I’ve got no clue who’s starting, who’s playing and how much snaps each is getting. My mind is telling me, Tario Fuller and Markell Jones are our top two backs entering Saturday. Does it mean I’m right? Not in the slightest. Don’t be surprised we get big man Richie Worship in goal-line situations, and we could honestly use him as a full-back. Brian Lankford-Johnson is quick and wouldn’t surprise me we see him in on special teams. D.J. Knox could see snaps as well, it’s just going to depend on who’s hot and who’s not. But as far as production goes from all of them, they need to play well and help take the load off of David Blough.
Thanks everyone for your questions, can’t wait for this season to start Saturday night! Good luck to our players and coaches, hope to see a ton of black and gold fill up Lucas Oil Stadium!