The Fascination with Tarvaris Jackson

Arkansas coaches tried their best to develop Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback. It didn't happen for the Hogs, but maybe it will some place else.

I had hoped they could continue to groom Tarvaris Jackson and somehow things would happen for the redshirt freshman quarterback sometime during his Arkansas career. It's not going to happen. Jackson has announced plans to transfer to a smaller school closer to his home, perhaps Alabama State in Montgomery, Ala.

 I know that UA quarterback coach David Lee put in much time working with Jackson. That effort was intensive over the last 12 months. I do also know that Robby Hampton helped him alot last spring. Most everyone was pulling for him.

I do think that he could have developed into a fine quarterback, but he had a long way to go. He struggled with some of the finer points of playing quarterback. He didn't seem to relax when there were pressure situations. Even when he excelled at some things, the pressure of playing in gamelike settings caused him trouble.

I remember talking with some of the inside folks after the spring game, and this was players, coaches and other sportswriters. Even as he led his team to a victory, he didn't understand how to finish the game. The interception he threw late in that second quarter (or second half) could have been a disaster.

Later, when his team got the ball back, he was milking the clock, or so he thought. David Lee, on the sideline, became extremely upset because while he was milking the clock, it was the wrong clock. The game clock wasn't running because it stopped after the previous play. He was running the 25-second clock down, but the game clock was stopped. He didn't recognize the difference. That's something that all quarterbacks should recognize, and it really worried me at the time.

I think there was a tremendous fascination with Tarvaris Jackson's potential as a passer. He had a great arm. He didn't understand how to use it. There were times in practice that he was absolutely awesome, when he displayed touch and accuracy. There were other times in practice that if you were watching on the sideline you better be watching because the ball was flying everywhere and with so much velocity it could actually take your head off if it hit you just right. His teammates appeared scared of his short passes at times because they came so hard.

But, I think everyone on the team and all of the coaches wanted to give Jackson as much time as possible because of that fascination with that great right arm. They did not want to ever give up on him. They worked with him as hard as I've seen any staff work with any quarterback that I've ever seen on any campus that I've covered in my years as a sportswriter.

Part of it was that he was a likeable person. The players REALLY liked him. I think that is one reason that he got extra chances to win the job in two-a-days. I think Houston Nutt knew that he was well thought of by his teammates. And, that was real. Most everyone liked him as a person, on and off the field. He cared about his team and his teammates. He went out of his way to try to help them.

I saw Tarvaris Jackson on Tuesday night at the basketball game. He was sitting in the east end zone in the student section, probably 10 rows from the baseline. There were about four other players with him, including De'Arrius Howard and Arrion Dixon. Of course, they also were accompanied by about 10 girls. In watching the group, it was obvious to me that Jackson was the "alpha" of the group. He was their leader and the rest followed his lead. That's the way it was for much of the time that I saw Jackson. He was a good leader off the field.

However, it never translated to the kind of play that was needed on the field. He may have been a leader on the field, but he didn't lead his team to touchdowns. It just didn't happen. To me, that is the bottom line to playing quarterback. At some point, it may all click for Tarvaris Jackson. There is marvelous potential for him as both an athlete and a person to play quarterback. That potential wasn't realized at Arkansas, and now he has decided to try it at a lower level. It may be the right decision for everyone.

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