By Taylor Webster —
The undoubted star of the Louisville offense is quarterback Lamar Jackson, but the Heisman winner has emerging targets that will haul in receptions this season.
The two starting outside receivers entering the year are junior Jaylen Smith and sophomore Seth Dawkins.
Smith, 6-foot-3 and 220 lbs., started all games last season. He ended the season with 599 yards and six touchdowns on 27 receptions.
The Mississippi native has progressed during his time as a Cardinal and acknowledges how much the receiving core lost in 2016.
“We lost a lot of talent in my position,” Smith said. “Jamari, Quick, Cole (Hikutini) — they had 131 total catches together. Someone has to step it up and pick up that slack.”
Smith will be leaned on to replace that production. To help him develop, Smith has worked on balance and flexibility during the off-season.
Dawkins played in 10 games last season, and at 6-foot-3 and 208 lbs., he gives U of L two big targets. Dawkins only caught 11 passes, but averaged 17.4 yards per catch.
Dawkins notes this coming season as a jumping off point.
“It is really important to have a great season to set myself up for an even better junior and senior season,” Dawkins said. “Last year, I was transitioning from being a high school player to being a college receiver. I worked on my route running and getting out of breaks faster (this off-season).”
The pair of Smith and Dawkins are said to be the new dynamic duo for Louisville football. The roommates are close friends and spend time together away from the field.
The two worked on casual player progression — becoming bigger, faster, stronger — but also wanted to improve relationships.
“As an offense, we have gotten closer and our chemistry is better,” Smith said.
Both Smith and Dawkins are big play receivers and have earned the trust of Jackson. That trust has developed away from the field as well, as the three are all close friends.
Not only do Smith and Dawkins feel pressure to perform better as individuals, they also feel pressure as a team.
“We have a lot to prove as a team,” Smith said, “We left a lot on the table at the end of last year.”
The team motto, according to Dawkins: Finish.
Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal