The ESPYS are coming. ESPN’s annual summer tradition of showering star athletes with Hollywood praise is coming in July, and fans now have a chance to vote for their picks in multiple categories. As is typically the case, the reigning national champions tend to be well-represented.
The Clemson Tigers appear multiple times among the finalists for various ESPY awards. Former quarterback Deshaun Watson, now with the NFL’s Houston Texans, is one of four finalists for the Best Championship Performance award. Despite passing for 420 yards and three touchdowns without an interception and running for 43 yards and a score against Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game last January, Watson is up against some stiff competition in the category. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant, and Los Angeles Sparks player Candace Parker are the other finalists. Topping Brady or Durant may prove difficult for Watson considering the pedigree each of those two have. A player competing in the NBA Finals has won the award each of the past four seasons (three of them won by LeBron James). The only college football player to win the award was former Texas quarterback Vince Young in 2006 following his performance in the Rose Bowl against USC. Watson’s performance against Alabama was about as close to Young’s Rose Bowl as you can get, so maybe there is a chance.
Watson may stand a better chance of being named the Best Male College Athlete. He is the only college football player in the running and may have the most well-known name recognition across the nation compared to the others in contention, although Kansas basketball player Frank Mason could stand a chance.
Clemson’s victory over Alabama is also one of three finalists for Best Upset. The only other finalists for the award are the Mississippi State women’s basketball team upsetting the UConn women in the women’s Final Four and Denis Istomin toppling Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open. Clemson has a chance here, although the UConn women losing was a stunner. No college football game is up for Best Game despite a thrilling national championship game and a Rose Bowl for the ages. But then again, it’s hard to argue against Game 7 of the World Series and the Super Bowl, with a Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal Australian Open Final coming out as the three finalists.
Clemson is also up for Best Team, but against the Chicago Cubs, Warriors, Pittsburgh Penguins, Patriots, South Carolina women’s basketball and the United States women’s gymnastics team. It’s a loaded field.
Louisville quarterback and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is in the hunt for an ESPY though. His hurdle of a defender is in a tournament-style bracket of 16 plays for the Best Play ESPY. Given the No. 14 seed, Jackson is up against a pass by Aaron Rogers to Jared Cook that led to a playoff victory against the Dallas Cowboys, so once again it looks like a tough draw. Here’s the Jackson hurdle against Syracuse…
The ESPYS will air on Wednesday, July 12.
One of Louisville’s top returning wide receivers will be out for the spring. Jaylen Smith was one of two wide receivers ruled out for the spring by head coach Bobby Petrino on Monday.
Smith underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his foot. The timetable for his return to the team is unknown at this time, but it does not appear to be something Petrino is concerned about at this time with so much time before the start of the new season. It is not as though Smith had much to prove this spring anyway.
Smith caught 27 passes last season for 599 yards and six touchdowns. With seniors James Quick and Jamari Staples moving on, it is expected Smith will see a more significant role in the offense in 2017. The absence of Smith for the spring will leave room for other receivers to have some more passes thrown their way this spring, which is always a benefit to having a key player injured.
As for the man throwing those footballs to receivers, 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is not without some things to work on this spring either according to Petrino. One area Petrino wants Jackson to focus on is taking negative yardage. Jackson did run for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, so it is not as though things will not balance out in Louisville’s favor in 2017, but Jackson was limited to 33 rushing yards in two of his final three games against Houston and LSU. Houston sacked Jackson 11 times and LSU brought him down eight times in the Citrus Bowl.
Just think how dangerous Jackson will be if he does improve on what he did last season.
The new college football season may still be a long way away, but it is never too early to place your bets on who you think will win the Heisman Trophy in the 2017 season. The very early favorite, according to odds released by Bovada on Monday, is Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Bovada gives Mayfield 11/2 odds to win the Heisman Trophy this fall. He is followed by Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett (6/1), which sets up a nice Heisman Trophy showdown in September when the defending Big 12 champions head to Columbus for the second game in a home-and-home series that was won by Ohio State in Norman in 2016. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, is listed with 7/1 odds, with USC’s rising star quarterback Sam Darnold listed at 9/1.
Penn State’s dynamic duo of running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley each have 10/1 odds, along with Washington quarterback Jake Browning.
Looking back to the early odds from last January, Barrett and Mayfield each had 10/1 Heisman odds. Louisville’s Jackson was not on the radar.
It was a long afternoon for Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and No. 13 Louisville (9-4) in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, as No. 20 LSU (8-4) used its signature defense to sack the Heisman quarterback eight times and limit the once College Football Playoff contenders to just nine points in a 29-9 victory.
Louisville was held to just 220 yards of offense and was an astounding 2-for-17 on third down conversion attempts. Jackson ended his 2016 Heisman season with just 10-of-27 passing for 153 yards without a score. Jackson rushed for a net-gain of 33 yards despite being taken down eight times. Tashawn Bower recorded three of those sacks, and Arden Kelly had two more. And check out how Jamal Adams tracked down Jackson on this play (look where Adams starts the play)…
LSU was playing without running back Leonard Fournette, but Derrius Guice was ready to lead the offense with 138 rushing yards and a touchdown. As a result, Guice ended the season as the SEC’s rushing leader, just nudging his way past Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Guice will be back for the 2017 season, which means LSU should have one of the top running backs to utilize in its offense, and that is a very good thing.
LSU will now once again ride this wave of optimism and look to build on that in the offseason leading up to the start of the 2017 season. This is now Ed Orgeron‘s program and he will be adding one of the top offensive coordinators to the staff in Matt Canada, to go along with already having one of the top defensive coordinators in Dave Aranda. The addition of Canada should help solve some concerns with the LSU offense, although trusting the running game is a nice luxury to have in 2017. LSU will begin the 2017 season in Houston for a neutral-site game against BYU on Saturday, September 2, 2017. LSU will have a challenging SEC schedule next season with road games at Florida (thanks to the rescheduling development this season), Alabama and Tennessee.
As for Louisville, there is still plenty to be optimistic about with Jackson returning for a follow-up season to his Heisman Trophy season. The luster on the 2016 season will be dulled as a result of how this season ended for the Cardinals, but Louisville will get a terrific opportunity to get started on a fast track to lighting things up on offense next season. The Cardinals begin the 2017 season on September 2, 2017 in Indianapolis against Purdue (with new head coach Jeff Brohm at the helm), followed, potentially, by two ACC contests (the ACC schedule has yet to be confirmed). Louisville will also host Kent State and Murray State in non-conference play, which should be two relatively easy wins with opportunities to pile up big offensive stats. Louisville will get Clemson at home and Florida State on the road in ACC Atlantic play. And, just because it had become a bit of a story lately, Louisville travels to Wake Forest next season.
Louisville may have the Heisman Trophy winner playing quarterback, but Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals have found almost nothing on offense through one half against LSU’s stingy defense. The Tigers have out-gained Louisville 230-41 in the first half and held the football for just over 18 minutes while building a 16-6 lead on Louisville.
Louisville has had an absolutely miserable first half on offense. The Cardinals were forced to punt on their first offensive series and settled for a field goal on their second. Then came four straight three-and-outs and then Jackson was taken down in the end zone for a safety late in the first half. The Cardinals were given a gift to tack on a late field goal thanks to an interception by Zykiesis Cannon on a very poorly thrown football by Danny Etling immediately following the LSU safety. Blanton Creque hit his second field goal of the half, this one with plenty of leg from 47 yards out, to cut slightly into the LSU lead.
Aside from the late interception, Etling had a decent first half with 187 passing yards and two touchdowns despite completing just 11 of his 21 pass attempts. With Leonard Fournette opting to sit out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL, the LSU running game has gone through Derrius Guice, who has rushed for 47 yards on 17 carries to lead all players. Louisville’s Jackson has been sacked five times in the first half, including two by Tashawn Bower.
Louisville’s defense is playing a little short-handed with injuries keeping out cornerbacks Trumaine Washington and Shaq Williams and a hamstring leaving safety Josh Harvey-Clemons questionable, in addition to gunshot wounds leaving linebackers Henry Famurera and James Hearns out of action. The losses in the defensive backfield have shown with LSU being able to find some room to work in the passing game.