History suggests Jackson’s numbers will dip in 2017


Lamar Jackson returns to Louisville for the 2017 season as the toast of college football — the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. But recent history would suggest it’ll be tough for Jackson to improve on the numbers he posted during his memorable Heisman run this past fall.

Over the last decade, six Heisman Trophy winners returned to college the following season. The list includes Florida’s Tim Tebow, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, Alabama’s Mark Ingram, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Jackson becomes the sixth.

After throwing for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns in winning the 2007 Heisman, Tebow’s passing numbers regressed in each of his last two college seasons. Though he finished his collegiate career with over 9,200 passing yards and 88 touchdowns (against just 15 interceptions), Tebow couldn’t reproduce his magical sophomore season.

After winning the 2008 Heisman as a sophomore, Bradford’s junior season of 2009 was a nightmare. Bradford first suffered a sprained shoulder in Oklahoma’s opener against BYU. Though he had one big game against Baylor, throwing for 389 yards, Bradford re-injured his throwing shoulder against Texas. It was his last collegiate outing as he went on to become the first overall selection of the 2010 NFL Draft.

After producing 1,658 rushing yards in 2009 to win the Heisman as a sophomore, Ingram barely produced half that much yardage the following year. Forced to miss the start of the season following knee surgery, Ingram managed just 875 rushing yards in 2010 before going pro.

Among recent underclassman Heisman winners, only Manziel was able to improve on his numbers the following year. Manziel went from 3,706 passing yards and 26 touchdowns in his Heisman-winning season of 2012 to 4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2013.

Winston, who followed up Manziel in 2013 as the second freshman in history to win the Heisman Trophy, struggled the following year. After putting up remarkable statistics as a redshirt freshman to lead FSU to a national title — 4,057 passing yards, 40 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions — Winston had just 25 touchdown passes in 2014, while throwing 18 picks.

Despite leading the Seminoles to a second straight undefeated regular season, Winston played poorly in his last college game: FSU’s College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Oregon. But like Bradford, Winston parlayed his collegiate success into the No. 1 overall selection of the NFL Draft a few months later.

So while it might be easy to pencil in Jackson as the early 2017 Heisman Trophy favorite, he’ll be challenged to produce similar results. As the primary focus of opposing defenses, Jackson will not sneak up on anyone. And he’ll have nowhere to hide from all the attention.