Another Spot Where Tide Soph Is Veteran

Comedian Kathleen Madagan says that she went to junior college and learned that "if you stay there long enough, they let you teach the class." Kareem Jackson isn't in junior college. He's a sophomore cornerback, but he's already involved as a veteran teacher.

Kareem Jackson is a sophomore cornerback for the Alabama Crimson Tide and one of only two returning starters in the secondary, one of only five on Bama's defense. It's something like the situation at linebacker where soph Rolando McClain is the veteran.

In 2007 Jackson entered The University in the spring semester and was able to participate in spring practice. Still, it probably ranks as something of a surprise that he moved into a starting role as a freshman, starting 12 of Bama's 13 games.

Now he's expected to be a leader in the secondary, he said, and it's not easy for him. "It's a big role, but Coach Saban is preparing me to take that role," Jackson said. "We've got a lot of guys with experience back there, like Marquis Johnson, Chris Rogers, Javier Arenas. He's got a lot of experience. We're going to be all right."

One leadership role Jackson has a problem with is vocalizing, and he said Coach Nick Saban is pushing him to be better. "I try to," he said. "I know Coach Saban wants me to. But that's just not me. I'm not real vocal. I do try to lead by example."

Jackson had his biggest game in one of Alabama's biggest wins last season. He had two interceptions in a 41-17 romp over Tennessee. "That was a real confidence-booster," he said. "But the way Coach Saban gets on me every week about applying the stuff from practice to the game, it wasn't real surprising. We expected to come out and execute and it followed. It was one of those games that boosted everyone's confidence."

Jackson had a Freshman All-Southeastern Conference and second team Freshman All-America year as he finished with three interceptions, four pass break-ups and had 66 tackles. This spring he won the Bobby Johns Defensive Back Award.

Jackson said, "Me being able to (enroll) early helped a whole lot, because I was able to come in and learn the defense, learn the system. It was what I kind of expected, but I've still got to improve in a lot of aspects of the game. My technique, paying attention to the little stuff, if I can improve on that, I'll be better off."

Jackson remembers getting a boost from an experienced player. "Coming in, learning the defense, it was a real struggle for me," he said. "Simeon Castille helped me a lot, one-on-one after practice with Coach (Kirby) Smart. Learning all the small stuff, I didn't really pick up on it until maybe the spring. I'm really looking forward to this year because I think that will help me a lot."

Jackson likes what he sees in freshmen cornerbacks Robby Green and Alonzo Lawrence. "They are looking real good right now," he said. "They're progressing real fast. They're taking in the concepts of the defense real quickly. We're looking for them to help us a lot this year."

And Jackson said he is doing all he can to help his new teammates at cornerback. "I'm trying to teach them the things that have been taught to me," he said.

There's one freshman almost every Tide player is asked about: Wide receiver Julio Jones, one of the men Jackson is called upon to cover in practice. Because he was recovering from sports hernia surgery in the summer, Jackson didn't participate in the seven-on-seven work that would have been his introduction to Jones. Now he's seeing Jones in practice, though. "He's big, he's strong, he's fast," Jackson said. "I'm looking forward to him helping us a whole lot this year."

Jackson said he doesn't expect the secondary to be a weak spot for Bama in 2008. "We're good in the secondary," he said. "We've got a lot of experience. We've got Rashad Johnson at one safety and Justin Woodall stepping in at the other safety spot. Javier Arenas has some experience from last year and the previous year.

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