Assault on the Record Book: DeSean Jackson

The second installation of Assault on the Record Book focuses on wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The 6-foot, 166-pound junior from Long Beach enters the season as a solid All-American candidate, has a chance to challenge records in receiving and all-purpose running, and further solidify his credentials as Cal's all-time greatest punt returner.

One of the most-heralded recruits to ever play football at the University of California, Jackson has actually exceeded expectations, if such a thing can be possible from a five-star recruit who was named MVP of the U.S. Army All-American Game.  After a solid freshman year, Jackson exploded onto the seen last season, and was named All Pac-10 1st team as a wide receiver and a punt returner, made several first-team All-American teams as a punt returner, and won the Randy Moss Award as the top return man in the country.

As a receiver, his 59 catches were the fifth-highest for a single season, and his 1,060 yards were also the fifth-highest for a single season.  While many career records would appear to be out of reach this season, if Jackson can put together a year similar to Geoff McArthur's monster 2003 season, several receiving records could have a leader by the end of the year.

As a punt returner, Jackson has already soared atop Cal's single season and career lists and is looking to make an impact on Pac-10 and NCAA lists this season.

Career Receptions

Rank Player Att. Yds. Avg. TD
1 Geoff McArthur (00-04) 202 3188 15.8 20
2. Dameane Douglas (95-98) 195 2335 12.0 13
3. Bobby Shaw (94-97) 180 2731 15.2 27
4. Brian Treggs (88-91) 167 2335 14.0 15
5. Na'il Benjamin (93-96) 165 2196 13.3 13
6. Mike Caldwell (89-93) 139 1999 14.4 13
7. Steve Rivera (73-75) 138 2085 15.1 9
8. Steve Sweeney (70-72) 132 2043 15.5 21
9. Sean Dawkins (90-92) 129 2124 16.5 31
10. Dwight Garner (82-85) 120 1027 8.6 1
  DeSean Jackson (05-) 97 1661 17.1 16

Outlook: The Golden Bears have enough offensive balance and receiver talent, that it's not likely that Jackson will finish with the106-catch season necessary to top this chart.  It's easy to see him having a 60-to-70 catch season that could boost him into fourth place on this list. Defenses will concentrate their efforts on Jackson to avoid the risk of getting burned by his big-play ability, which means that his career average of 17.1 yards may drop as he gets more receptions.

Single Season Receptions

Rank Player Year Att. Yds. Avg. TD
1. Dameane Douglas 1998 100 1150 11.5 4
2. Geoff McArthur 2003 85 1504 17.7 10
3. Bobby Shaw 1997 75 1093 14.6 10
4. Sean Dawkins 1992 65 1070 16.5 14
5. DeSean Jackson 2006 59 1060 18.0 9
6. Bobby Shaw 1996 58 888 15.3 9
7. Steve Rivera 1975 57 790 13.9 4
  Geoff McArthur 2004 57 862 15.1 7
9. Iheanyi Uwaezuoke 1994 56 716 12.8 5
  Steve Rivera 1974 56 938 16.8 4

Outlook:  Although Cal's passing attack has been highly productive since Jeff Tedford took over the head coaching duties in 2002, only three of the entries on the single-season reception top 10 list belong to his receivers; two by Geoff McArthur and one by DeSean Jackson. One thing about this list that jumps out is McArthur's remarkable year in 2003. For a primary receiver in college to have that high of a yards-per-catch average is rare.  As defenses try different tactics to stop Jackson, the Bear offense will be challenged to find creative ways to get him the football.  Curiously, even though 59 catches was good enough to get him the 5th spot, he led the Bears in receptions in just five of the Bears' 13 games.

Career Receiving Yards

Rank Player Rec. Yds.
1. Geoff McArthur (00-04) 202 3188
2. Bobby Shaw (94-97) 180 2731
3. Dameane Douglas (95-98) 195 2335
  Brian Treggs (88-91) 167 2335
5. Wesley Walker (73-76) 72 2206
6. Na'il Benjamin (93-96) 165 2196
7. Sean Dawkins (90-92) 129 2124
8. Steve Rivera (73-75) 138 2085
9. Steve Sweeney (70-82) 132 2043
10. Mike Caldwell (89-93) 139 1999
  DeSean Jackson (05-) 97 1661

Outlook:  Another year like 2006 will put Jackson firmly in the top three, ahead of Dameane Douglas and Brian Treggs, but behind Geoff McArthur and Bobby Shaw.  It's not out of the question that if Jackson were to have a year similar to McArthur's 2003 season, that he could challenge for the top spot on the list.  With his speed and ability to break big games, all it'll take is a couple of monster games against a couple of bad defenses, and he could rocket his way up the list very quickly.   The Bears passed for more than 250 yards against five conference opponents last season (Oregon State, Washington, Arizona State, UCLA, and Arizona), Colorado State had huge pass defense issues late in the season last year and is returning nine starters, while Louisiana Tech surrendered more than 500 yards passing twice last season.

Single Season Receiving Yards

Rank Player Year Att. Yds.
1. Geoff McArthur 2003 87 1504
2. Dameane Douglas 1998 100 1150
3. Bobby Shaw 1997 75 1093
4. Sean Dawkins 1992 65 1070
5. DeSean Jackson 2006 59 1060
6. Mike Caldwell 1993 55 962
7. Steve Rivera 1974 56 938
8. Bobby Shaw 1996 58 888
9. Geoff McArthur 2004 57 862
10. Jesse Thompson 1977 51 797
  Rance McDougald 1983 46 797

Outlook:  Jackson should easily have a second entry on this list by the time the season's over, the two questions are: whether he'll become the first Golden Bear receiver to have two 1,000 yard seasons, and  whether fellow receiver Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan will end up on this list as well.  With a likely 13-game schedule, it would take an average of 62 yards a game to crack the 800-yard mark.   Although Jackson led the Bears in catches in just five of the Bears' games, he led them in receiving yardage in seven of them. 

Career Receiving TDs

Rank Player Att. Yds. Avg. TD
1. Sean Dawkins (90-92) 129 2124 16.5 31
2. Bobby Shaw (94-97) 180 2731 15.2 27
3. Steve Sweeney (70-72) 132 2043 15.5 21
4. Geoff McArthur (00-04) 202 3188 15.8 20
5. DeSean Jackson (05-) 97 1661 17.1 16
6. Brian Treggs (88-91) 167 2335 14.0 15
7. Mike Caldwell (89-93) 139 1999 14.4 13
8. Na'il Benjamin (93-96) 165 2196 13.3 13
9. Dameane Douglas (95-98) 195 2235 12.0 13
10. David Lewis (80-83) 114 1607 14.1 10
  Iheanyi Uwaezuoke (92-95) 118 1739 14.7 10
  Robert Jordan (04-) 106 1298 12.2 10

Outlook:  Jackson is fully capable of turning a short pass pattern into a long gain or a touchdown; he's one of those rare players who's in scoring position at every point in the field.  That offsets the fact that he doesn't have to size to become a short-yardage touchdown threat like Sean Dawkins was, where Mike Pawlawski could throw lobs into the endzone and Dawkins could outjump his defenders. Jackson should easily make his way into third position at season's end, with a chance of challenging for Bobby Shaw's 27.

Single Season Receiving TDs

Rank Player   Att. Yds. Avg. TD
1. Sean Dawkins 1992 65 1070 16.5 14
2. Steve Sweeney 1972 52 785 15.1 13
3. Bobby Shaw 1997 75 1093 14.6 10
  Geoff McArthur 2003 85 1504 17.7 10
5. Bobby Shaw 1996 58 888 15.3 9
  DeSean Jackson 2006 59 1060 18.0 9
7. Jim Hanifan 1954 44 569 12.9 7
  Mike Caldwell 1993 55 962 17.5 7
  Jonathan Makkonen 2002 54 682 12.6 7
  Geoff McArthur 2004 57 863 15.1 7
  DeSean Jackson 2005 38 601 15.8 7

Outlook:  Even with an increase in the number of catches, it's unlikely that Jackson will improve significantly on his touchdown total from a year ago. The Bears have generally been successful running the ball in for touchdowns in goal-line situations. A couple of games against badly overmatched pass defenses could help him boost his numbers considerably, but very fast and able wide receivers generally don't have high touchdown totals.

Career 100-yard Receiving Games

Rank Player 100-yard games
1. Bobby Shaw (94-97) 11
  Geoff McArthur (00-04) 11
3. Wesley Walker (73-76) 8
  Dameane Douglas (95-98) 8
5. DeSean Jackson (05-) 7
6. Steve Sweeney (70-72) 6
  Brian Treggs (88-91) 6
  Sean Dawkins (90-92) 6
9. Steve Rivera (73-75) 5
  Rance McDougald (82-84) 5

Outlook:  Of all of the career records, this one's the most reachable.  In 2006, Jackson had four 100-yard games, and four others of 70 yards or more.  If he repeats those numbers this year, he'll tie Bobby Shaw, and it's easy to see him having enough good games this season that he'd finish atop this list with 12 or 13 career 100-yard games.

Punt Return - NCAA

Rank Player Att. Yds. Avg. TD
1. Jack Mitchell (46-48), Oklahoma 39 922 23.6 7
2. Gene Gibson (49-50), Cincinnati 37 760 20.5 4
3. Eddie Macon (49-51), Pacific 48 907 18.9 4
4. Jackie Robinson (39-40), UCLA 37 694 18.8 2
5. Dan Shelton, (01-04), Northern Ill. 57 1021 17.9 4
6. Bobby Dillon, (49-51), Texas 47 830 17.7 1
7. Mike Fuller, (72-74), Auburn 50 883 17.7 3
8. Bobby Newcombe (97-00), Nebraska 48 829 17.3 3
9. James Dye (92-96), BYU/USU 61 1046 17.2 5
10. George Hoey (66-68), Michigan 31 529 17.1 1
  DeSean Jackson 26 504 19.4 5

Outlook:  To qualify for the NCAA's top 10 punt return list, a returner needs to have at least 30 catches, or 1.2 catches per games that he plays in. Currently, Jackson's punt return average is the third-best in NCAA history, which is quite an accomplishment if you consider all of the outstanding special teams players that have played over the years.  The catch is that once teams are wise to a dangerous punt returner, they'll either kick the ball out of bounds, boom high, short kicks, and even decide to go for it more.  This'll result in fewer returnable balls, and a handful of plays where a returner will try to make something happen out of a difficult situation and end up with a short gain.  Nevertheless, there's no special teams coach in the country that sends out a unit that he's convinced will be torched and thus shies away from the challenge.  Jackson's average is strong enough that even if he were to field 14 punts for 180 yards (12.9 avg.), he'd still be in a position to be on this list's top 10.   (Note: The Pac-10 doesn't have a top 10 list - it justs lists a career leader - UCLA's Maurice Drew who had 25 returns for 579 yards for a 23.2 yards average. Jackson does hold the career (five) and single-season (four) Pac-10 record for punts returned for touchdowns)

Punt Returns Career Average

Rank Player Att. Yds. Avg. TD
1. DeSean Jackson (05-) 26 504 19.4 5
2. Paul Keckley (46-48) 35 453 12.9 0
3. Jemeel Powell (99-02) 57 724 12.7 3
4. Tim Mixon (03-05) 56 710 12.7 1
5. Jerry Bradley (64-66) 53 662 12.5 2
6. Carl Van Heuit (49-50) 38 422 11.1 0
7. Bill Main (46-48) 26 285 11.0 0
8. Paul Larson (52-54) 42 450 10.7 1
9. Deltha O'Neal (96-99) 110 1169 10.6 1
10. Joe Stuart (43-45) 58 594 10.2 0

Outlook:  Jackson's so far atop this list that his place as Cal's all-time greatest punt returner is cemented.  His next 12 punt returns could net zero yards, and he'd still be atop this list.  Deltha O'Neal is listed with just one punt return for a touchdown, which seems low, although in 1999, he did have several long returns that were negated by penalty.

Punt Returns Single Season Avg.

Rank Player Year Att. Yds. Avg. TD
1. DeSean Jackson 2006 25 455 18.2 4
2. Jemeel Powell 2000 12 218 18.2 1
3. Paul Keckley 1948 16 245 15.3 0
4. Tim Mixon 2005 24 357 14.9 1
5. Jerry Bradley 1966 23 296 12.9 2
6. Carl Van Heuit 1949 18 228 12.7 0
7. Jerry Bradley 1965 18 220 12.2 0
8. Jerry Bradley 1964 12 146 12.2 0
9. Jemeel Powell 2002 32 389 12.2 2
10. Deltha O'Neal 1998 38 447 12.2 2

Outlook:  While it would seem unlikely that opponents would give Jackson 25 chances to return punts this year, some teams might try to take their chances than risk a bad shank or automatically gifting the Bears good field position with an out-of-bounds punt. It's certainly possible that he might have a higher punt return average this year, but look for the total number of punt returns to go down.

All Purpose Yardage - Career

Rank Player Rush Rec. Ret. Total
1. Deltha O'Neal (96-99) 685 319 3991 4998
2. Russell White (90-92) 3367 364 1212 4943
3. Marshawn Lynch (04-06) 3230 600 744 4574
4. Chuck Muncie (73-75) 3052 1085 57 4194
5. Joe Igber (99-02) 3124 755 0 3879
6. Na'il Benjamin (93-96) 145 2196 1495 3836
7. Paul Jones (75, 77-79) 2930 733 63 3726
8. Dwight Garner (82-85) 1048 1027 1232 3307
9. Geoff McArthur (00-04) 9 3188 0 3197
10. Wesley Walker (73-76) 158 2206 721 3085
  DeSean Jackson 67 1661 542 2270

Outlook:  This category primarily belongs to running backs, while a couple of receivers on this list have been helped out by return yardage. Deltha O'Neal is the anomaly on this list as he made most of his yardage through kickoff, punt, and interception returns.  The only player on this list who's primarily a receiver and didn't see any kick return duties was Geoff McArthur.  Between receiving and returns, Jackson should be able to add another 1,200 to 1,500 yards to his total which would put him around Paul Jones (7th place, 3,726 yards) and Dwight Garner (8th place, 3,307 yards).   If he ends up seeing extended kickoff return duty, he could end up with close to 4,000 total yards by season's close which would put him in 5th place, between Chuck Muncie and Joe Igber.

All Purpose Yardage - Single Season

Rank Player Year Rush Rec. Ret. Tot.
1. J.J. Arrington 2004 2018 121 0 2139
2. Chuck Muncie 1975 1460 392 19 1871
3. Marshawn Lynch 2006 1356 328 101 1785
4. Russell White 1990 1000 127 629 1756
5. Russell White 1991 1177 139 408 1724
6. Marshawn Lynch 2005 1246 125 271 1642
7. DeSean Jackson 2006 19 1060 483 1572
8. LaShaun Ward 2002 35 709 809 1553
9. Geoff McArthur 2003 0 1504 0 1504
10. Isaac Curtis 1971 475 175 799 1449

Outlook:  If Jackson is flirting with the 2,000 yard mark as the season winds to an end and the team is doing well, he'll be on quite a few Heisman short lists.  This is because he'll have shown increased receiving productivity from a highly successful 2006 season and he'll have had considerable impact on the punt and kickoff returns.  He could still have a terrific year and end up with 1,500 yards, after all Jackson and McArthur are the only two players on this list who've made this list primarily off of receiving yardage, and those two had outstanding seasons.

Heisman Talk

For the past two years, California football fans have had the privilege of watching DeSean Jackson.  After decades of seeing other teams have players like that, it's been terrific to have a player that's always capable of doing something spectacular, whether it's with a burst of speed, a head fake, or a subtle move that freezes a defender.   If you go into the ASUC store, his jersey is available in two colors.  His face is peering out at you from numerous preseason football magazines. Cal's media relations has given him his own website.  There isn't anybody in college football that a Golden Bear fan would want to trade him for.

Having proven himself week-in and week-out, what are his chances at the Heisman?   While we'll revisit this question throughout the season, the first thing to look at is not just what type of precedent has been set for wide receivers winning the Heisman, or doing well in Heisman voting, but identirying similar wide receivers match Jackson's skill set.

There've been some receivers who've had strong numbers strictly at wide receiver and those receivers will always get All-American consideration, but not necessarily be considered strong Heisman candidates.  The two wide receivers that have won most recently, Tim Brown and Desmond Howard, were used as runners, receivers, and returned both kickoffs and punts.

The one burning question about whether Jackson should return kickoffs is whether the risk of injury would be too great, especially considering what he means to the Golden Bear offense, and that as talented as the rest of Cal's receiving corps is, there's no substitute for not just his speed but also his use of speed.  Yet as history shows, some of college football's greatest receiving weapons in the past 30 years have been used in all sorts of ways.

The following chart shows a list of names, their height and weight, how they finished in the Heisman race that year, and what their breakdown was for rushing, receiving, kickoff return and punt return yardage.  

Heisman Chart

Rank Player Rush. Rec. KOR PtR Tot.
1. Randy Moss, Marshall; 6-5, 210; 1997 Heisman-4th 2 1647 266 263 2176
2. Johnny Rodgers, Nebraska 5-9, 173; 1972 - Heisman-1st 267 942 304 548 2011
3. Tim Brown, Notre Dame; 6-0, 195; 1987 Heisman-1st 144 846 456 401 1847
4. Raghib Ismail, Notre Dame; 5-10, 175; 1990 - Heisman-2nd 537 699 151 336 1823
5. Desmond Howard, Michigan; 5-9, 175; 1991 Heisman-1st 165 950 261 373 1749
6. Anthony Carter, Michigan; 5-11, 161; 1981, Heisman-7th 57 825 406 150 1438
7. Anthony Carter; 1982 Heisman-4th 64 785 302 265 1416
8. Anthony Carter; 1980, Heisman-10th 35 750 411 159 1355
  DeSean Jackson, California; 6-0, 166; 2006 2 1060 38 455 1572

Outlook:  The first thing you may notice is that six of the eight entries here are either Notre Dame or Michigan entries.  With Notre Dame's national TV contract, the Big 10's early start times, and the chance to show key replays over and over, those two schools certainly would appear to have an advantage over West Coast schools.  The two non-Notre Dame/non-Michigan entries are at the top of the list, but even including Johnny Rodgers is a dicey proposition because he had his big years 35 years ago.

The only wide receiver to crack the top five in the Heisman Trophy voting this century was Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald who scored 22 touchdowns and had 92 catches for 1,672 receiving yards in 2003. Fitzgerald had seven rushing yards, but no return yardage.

During Tim Brown's Heisman year, Notre Dame was 8-3, which was probably testimony more to a down year for Heisman Trophy candidates than anything.  Nowadays, it's almost impossible to fathom a Heisman Trophy winner from a team that's not a national championship contender.  Michigan was 10-2 and went to the Rose Bowl in 1991, Desmond Howard's Heisman year.

With the exception of Randy Moss, and to an extent Tim Brown, the other names on the list are similar in build to Jackson and saw kickoff return duty.  Raghib Ismail returned kickoffs for 151 yards in 1990, but most teams wised up after he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in 1989 against Michigan.  In each case, the team had to make a choice between whether to take a risk with a player on return duty and finding a way to use their best players in a way to give their team the best chances to win.

And again, with the exception of Moss, none of the other receivers had exceptional years as receivers, they just happened to make enough big plays at key moments when TV cameras were rolling.

Nowadays, one can't discount the political aspect of the Heisman Trophy either.   Some schools have a much easier time when it comes to publicity and having talking heads hype their players than others, and others benefit from better TV contracts so that their exposure isn't limited by a time zone and their teams don't run the risk of being pre-empted by pre-season hockey.

It's possible that DeSean Jackson could match or surpass the numbers Brown, Ismail, Howard, and Carter on the chart, Cal could finish with a 10-2 record, and he could still end up outside of the top 10 in the Heisman voting.   But if he can bring his numbers up from 2006, and have big games in Cal's two key match-ups, Tennessee and USC, and the Bears can stay in the hunt for the Pac-10 Championship, things could get mighty interesting in early December.

Information for these charts were taken from the 2007 California Football Media Guide which can be found online here, and from the very useful NCAA Division I-A Football's Finest which can be downloaded here.


©Copyright 2007, BearInsider.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to The Bear Insider so you can participate in this active online Cal community and get access to the members-only content from the nationwide Scout.com network.

Bear Insider staff writers visit the Insider discussion board regularly, and are available to discuss questions you may have about this article and Cal Athletics.


BearTerritory.net Top Stories