When he turned on the film this past weekend to start game planning for a way to stop Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, Brent Venables started to have flashbacks.
“We were very interested (in him), we just filled up before he was ready to make a decision,” Venables said.
Venables, who recruits the South Florida area for No. 3 Clemson, watched Jackson at Boynton Beach High School in Pompano Beach.
“He caused the same kind of problems and havoc in high school as he does now,” Venables said on Tuesday.
However, Jackson is bigger, stronger, faster and smarter than he was in high school, which is why he has 1,856 yards and 25 total touchdowns in just four games.
“He is a lot more precise version,” Venables said. “He is stronger. He has put on quite a bit of weight. He is a great player.”
Jackson heads into Saturday’s clash with the Tigers as the talk of the college football world, especially after he lit Florida State up with five touchdowns, and had 610 total yards and five more touchdowns in a win at Syracuse.
“He’s got a special skill set, both his running and throwing ability, his ability to improvise and extend plays,” Venables said. “That can create a lot of problems.”
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney called him a right-handed Michael Vick.
“I think he has that same explosiveness. He can rip the football the same,” Swinney said. “To me that’s it. I don’t like to compare guys, but that’s what he looks like.”
Jackson reminds Venables of somebody he knows all too well … Robert Griffin III.
“He is very similar. He is probably a little bit more explosive and in a different system in how they are using him,” Venables said. “He is similar in a lot of ways, too. They create a lot of space and have good skill players around him.”
Clemson hopes Jackson does not remind Venables of RGIII too much on Saturday night. Griffin threw for 479 yards and four touchdowns against Venables’ Oklahoma defense in 2011. He also rushed for 72 yards in leading Baylor to a victory over the Sooners.
Like RGIII did in his senior year of winning the Heisman Trophy, Jackson has put up crazy statistics, which reminded Swinney of a video game than an actual person. He has already thrown for 1,330 yards and 13 touchdowns, while rushing for 526 yards and 12 more scores, which leads the nation.
“He is just a great player. He is very tough to defend,” Venables said. “They have an excellent group of players around him. They are very smart and manipulative on how they are using him and putting him in very successful situations. I think they are utilizing his skill set the right way. He is just a tough guy to defend.”
And even if they do defend him, more than likely, Jackson is still going to make plays.
“You can do everything right and still obviously be wrong. You can live with that if that happens, but you can’t stress about those kinds of things. You have to prepare for what you know you’re going to see or anticipate seeing, and then give your guys the best possible plan to execute and win.”