Jackson turnaround remarkable

CLEMSON - Richard Jackson won't hesitate to tell you that he was supposed to punt the ball out of bounds when he quick kicked in the first quarter against Georgia Tech.

Instead of leaving the Yellow Jackets with a long field, Jerrard Tarrant was able to field the punt and take it 85 yards for a touchdown.

"If it ever comes up again I'll probably just put it 10 rows deep in the student section," Jackson said.

Coach Dabo Swinney took the blame in the post-game and claimed he didn't communicate well enough to Jackson that the ball was to be kicked out of bounds.

"I'm sure he's protecting me," Jackson said earlier this week.

"I've got to see that guy out there and just punt it out of bounds."

That kind of accountability-along with a few good kicks-has gotten Jackson performing to the level that everyone expected when he arrived to Clemson from Riverside HS. For a guy who'd fallen so far off the radar in the classroom and on the gridiron, he's executed a nearly perfect 180 since January.

A three-star rated prospect by Scout.com, Jackson was rated the No. 7 kicker in 2006. He red-shirted as a freshman and was beaten by former soccer player Mark Buchholz for field goal duties in the following years.

The only player ineligible for last year's bowl game, Swinney was ready to send Jackson on the first bus out of town. Deep inside a hole he dug all by himself, Jackson said it was as about as a bad a situation as he's seen with anyone who's in a coach's dog house.

"(The hole) was deep enough to where I could see the top in January and probably through spring ball…I couldn't see myself getting out of it," he said.

Spencer Benton was expected to win the job during camp, but Jackson was named the starter, leaving Benton with only kickoffs. So far, Jackson has been solid. He was 3-5 against Middle Tennessee and 2-2 last Thursday.

He's starting to fulfill some of the expectations that came his way after making a national sports highlight show in high school. Judging from his 53-yard kick against Georgia Tech, Jackson is back.

"I hit it as hard as I could. It felt really good," he said. "We just had a good time out there. You saw the celebration. Mike Wade high kicked me in the back of the head.

"That's proof enough that we're just having a good time out there."

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