Monday, March 25, 2013
Watch List RB Jackson makes decision
By Jared Shanker
A Watch List prospect has made his decision -- just not the one much of the Big Ten was waiting to hear.
Last week, Justin Jackson (Carol Stream, Ill./Glenbard North) chose to focus solely on running back when it came to colleges. Up to this point, the 11 programs to offer gave him the luxury of picking his position, leaving it up to him whether he would play running back or cornerback.
“I’ve played it since the second grade. It’s my natural position,” Jackson said. “I am working on my weight and strength. If colleges don’t like me at running back than that’s OK, but there are schools I like that do want me at running back. I made the right decision, I think.”
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Jackson said he does not have a top group among his 11 offers, although he admits Indiana and Northwestern would both find themselves toward the top of his list if he had one. He took a visit to both schools recently.
Northwestern is a short drive for Jackson, who lives in the Chicagoland area. He said there are so many great things about the Northwestern program that “you can’t touch on them all.”
“They have a great coaching staff and stayed together and that’s rare in college football,” Jackson said. “Coach [Pat] Fitzgerald is a great recruiter, great coach, great guy and he’s straight forward.”
Running backs coach Matt MacPherson is the lead recruiter for Jackson, and on the visit the two spent some one-on-one time breaking down film of past Northwestern running backs. MacPherson wanted Jackson to see how the offensive coaches would use him and how much more the offense would expand with his blend of power and speed.
Academically, Jackson noted there are not many schools nationally that can offer the kind of education he would receive from Northwestern.
Big Ten brethren Indiana hosted Jackson for the first time earlier this month, although he remained in constant communication with Hoosiers running backs coach Deland McCullough before visiting. The two talked for a while before McCullough went on to coach while Jackson stood along the sidelines for spring practice. The visit ended with a trip to the Indiana basketball game.
“It was a very good visit,” Jackson said. “I learned a lot. I wish I could have spent more time to sit down with the coaches one-on-one or tour the campus, but I’m also hoping I can get down there again.”
While Jackson did not mention Vanderbilt in the same group as Indiana and Northwestern, the Commodores are a contender, especially since coach James Franklin told Jackson he will not take no for an answer on his visit.
“He’s a great guy, great coach. He’s very fiery and doesn’t hide his emotions,” Jackson said. “He kept saying ‘We won’t take no for an answer.’ It’s hard to say no. It was very genuine. He definitely wants me to keep Vanderbilt in mind.”
Jackson took this past weekend off and does not have any more visits scheduled. Nebraska is a program that has not offered but could soon, Jackson said.