ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s called the “Jamal Adams Rule.”
All of LSU’s quarterbacks know exactly what it is. Just ask them.
“Your job was, like, ‘OK, find Jamal.’ It’s like in the NFL. They had the ‘Ed Reed Rule,' " quarterback Danny Etling said, referring to the nine-time Pro Bowl safety. "You find Ed Reed. Just know where he is. Know that he’s going to react to you and know that he’s going to try to do something.”
Etling said that, in two years at LSU, Adams has never intercepted one of his passes in practice. He points to the Jamal Adams Rule as a reason.
But don't go telling that, Etling joked, to Adams, maybe the top trash-talker on this squad.
“He’s always talking,” Etling said.
Prepare yourself, Lamar Jackson, for all that talking, sacking, intercepting and tackling. Learn the Jamal Adams Rule, too.
Saturday's Citrus Bowl is a chess match between Dave Aranda, the Tigers’ whiz of a defensive coordinator, and UL head coach Bobby Petrino, an offensive guru who calls the plays for the Cardinals.
It’s a fight between top-20 teams built in very different ways.
And it’s a matchup of two of college football’s best players: Adams and Jackson, Louisville’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.
“Jamal Adams is one of the better safeties in the country. Very flexible. Great tackler in space," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said Friday. "I expect him to have a bunch of plays tomorrow on Lamar Jackson for us to be successful."
Adams is the passionate, loud leader of a defense that ranks 14th nationally, someone so good that teammates developed that awareness during practices and scrimmages. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior is the do-it-all safety — a fiery, flashy and fast kid who reminds at least one draft analyst of former LSU safety (and current NFL star) Tyrann Mathieu.
Adams is projected as a first-round pick in April's NFL draft, a probability that has many believing he will skip his senior season. That is something Adams, for now, vehemently denies.
On his Twitter account Wednesday, he shot down another report linking him to the draft: “False!” Adams wrote in a tweet that linked to the latest report.
Realistically, though, Adams is likely playing his final college game Saturday when No. 19 LSU (7-4) meets No. 15 Louisville (9-3).
Adams may be showcasing those NFL-worthy skills for the final time. And the brazen Texan gets, of all players, a Heisman winner to do it against.
Jackson, a speedy dual threat with a powerful arm, is the perfect final hurrah for Adams. Adams' reputation and billing are built on his versatility, as a player who drops into coverage, darts into the backfield on blitzes and swarms to the line of scrimmage for crowd-rousing tackles.
With Jackson, he has the perfect chance to show his complete game to a national audience on ABC in this kickoff to a New Year’s Eve buffet of football. The College Football Playoff plays out later in the day.
First, fans get Lamar vs. Jamal. They are arguably the best at their craft in college football.
WalterFootball.com names Adams the second-best safety in the 2017 draft class and a “top-25 pick.” Matt Miller, a draft analyst for Bleacher Report, goes even further.
“Lock for the top 15,” he said.
“Jamal Adams is a freak,” Miller said. “Because of (Leonard Fournette’s) injury this year, Jamal Adams has stood out. Like, against Alabama, he was everywhere. I think those two guys are the anchors of this class.”
“I really like Jamal Adams,” said Rob Rang, CBSSports.com’s NFL draft analyst. “Elements of his play remind me of Tyrann Mathieu. Versatility. Can drop down and play nickel or play traditional safety. I love his range, toughness and ball skills.”
The only gripe about Adams is he’s sometimes “overly aggressive,” leaving himself vulnerable to cutback lanes, Rang said.
Can Jackson take advantage?
The 6-3, 205-pound sophomore is just as highly touted as Adams. WalterFootball.com projected him as the second overall pick in its most recent 2018 mock draft.
Adams has his own description of Jackson, a native of Boynton Beach, Florida, about 180 miles south of here.
“That’s a kid that’s like Michael Vick 2.0,” Adams said.
In six games this season, Jackson has run for at least 100 yards and passed for at least 200. He threw just six interceptions in 357 attempts before his three-interception outing in a regular-season loss to Kentucky. Jackson ran for a season-low 33 yards in a defeat to Houston the week before.
Earlier this month, Aranda met in Houston with former UH defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. The two are old friends, and they discussed just how the Cougars slowed Jackson's feet.
“Houston was able to get up on them offensively and put them behind the chains, and I think that's the only game where (Jackson’s) run component didn't show up. Houston's teeing off on them, exotic pressures ... and the quarterback run really didn't show,” Aranda said. “I think it was just more drop-back pass and all that. And I think (it) kind of fed the fire, so to speak.”
Don’t think Adams hasn’t seen film of Jackson.
Adams is a film hog, Etling said, watching and breaking down opponents on a continuous basis. The film-room obsession is what gives Adams a “sixth sense,” the quarterback said.
“Jamal is the best, I think, I’ve seen,” Etling said. “I’ve played against some good safeties, but Jamal just has this extra sense about him. He sees what’s happening before it’s happening. You add that to his athleticism and work ethic … he’s tough to trick.”
That goes for other offensive positions, too.
“He’s a good run-stopper,” fullback J.D. Moore said. “He’s tougher to block, not like a linebacker or defensive lineman. They’re going to try to take on your block. He can take on your block if he needs to, but a lot of times, he’ll skim right past you and make the tackle.”
The Jamal Adams Rule still exists, but it was mostly used for camp scrimmages, Etling said. It might be shelved for good after Saturday’s game, with Adams potentially off to the pros.
Etling may never again have to walk to the line of scrimmage during a practice, look up and search for the trash-talking safety.
“He’s got all these things you really can’t game-plan against,” Etling said. “I have a few things up my sleeve. If I saw him back there and knew I could influence him, I’ll tried to trick him.
“A lot of times,” he said, “you can’t.”