PART II: Vettel 1-On-1 With Chad Jackson

We continue with our conversation with Florida's super-talented receiver Chad Jackson. In part one we looked at the transition for him with the new staff and the off-season program plus gearing up mentally for a return to his home state when the Gators take on Alabama. Today we look at how this Gator offense will utilize the skills of Jackson and the other Florida receivers and what he hopes for and expects from the 2005 campaign.

LARRY VETTEL: Chad you got to get a feel for this offense during spring practice and seemed to make a lot of plays during the spring. Tell me about the offense and what have you learned about it?

CHAD JACKSON: (chuckling) To tell you the truth I've kinda forgotten a little bit about it over the summer and I have to get back in the books so I'm ready to go. Once I get back on the field I'm sure it will come back to me. The offense is really good and great for the receivers Andre, Dallas, Jamelle, Mike, Kyle, Kenneth Tookes and me …it's a good offense for us, I like it a lot.

LV: It's a mixture for you … they're going to give you a chance to handle the ball a lot of different ways. How do you think that fits your abilities?

CJ: I like the offense because I can run inside and outside … I can run plays from the wide receiver or come out of the backfield. I just gotta trust those offensive linemen when we run the shovel pass and hope they don't get blown up, but we have a great offensive line with a lot of seniors back so they'll be alright.

LV: How is the mindset of this team developing. How are you approaching the season?

CJ: Last season we had a lot of off-season problems and people (players) really didn't respect the coaches and wanted to do their own thing. Right now the players and coaches are staying together; no one is late for workouts and everybody is going hard. It's going to be a really big season for us and I can't wait to get it started.

LV: Coaches love to talk about the need for leadership, especially this time of year. When you think about leadership, who comes to your mind as leaders on this team?

CJ: Jarvis Herring, Mike Degory, Randy Hand, Lance Butler…. All the seniors really want it and this is their last chance for a breakout year. The rest of us all want to do everything we can to give that to them.

LV: Nobody on this team has won an SEC Championship. Does that drive you guys, is that a focus for this season?

CJ: Yeah, Coach Meyer talks about it all the time. He says the guys who left last year left without anything but big losses. He says they can't bring their kids back here and point to the wall at a championship season when they played. He doesn't want that for this year's seniors … he wants them to go out with a SEC Championship.

LV: Do you look at the sign in the stadium which lists all the SEC Championships ending in 2000 and think it's time to re-paint that sign and add another year to it?

CJ: I really haven't looked at the banners or anything, but I know all the guys want to do it. They're tired of losing, tired of being on the outside looking in at the big games.

LV: Let's talk about defending the home turf. The Gators lost six homes games the last three years and it seems "The Swamp" has lost its mystique. How do you get this home field advantage back to where it was when people feared coming here.

CJ: The first game, we have to show everybody that "The Swamp" is still here. We gotta go out and score at least 70 points in that first game and go from there. Our mindset right now is nobody can mess with us. The work we've been doing in the off-season, the commitment we've made; I don't think anyone can challenge us this year.

LV: Some people have talked about the Gators getting back their swagger. What does that mean to you?

CJ: It means getting back to winning games, winning the division and winning SEC Championships. It means no more four and five loss seasons. It means winning more than eight games, more than nine games. That's the kind of football we want to give back to the fans.

LV: So if we talk about goals for the upcoming season, for it to be successful, what will it take? Do you have to get to Atlanta? Win in Atlanta? Do you have to win ten games? What do you have to do to make 2005 a special season?

CJ: We just gotta win every game. We gotta think about the game this week, play our game and take care of business. Whatever happens, happens but hopefully it'll end on a good note.

LV: What about for you personally, have you set any goals?

CJ: Just to get better as a receiver. I'm in a new position right now and I'm learning it more and more. But I want to make plays and help the team win any way I can.

LV: But do you think about 50 catches or a thousand yards? You gotta want a thousand yards don't you?

CJ: Yeah, I want a thousand yards but I don't want to be a selfish player. I'll put the team on my back if I have to, I don't mind doing that, but it's not about me it's about a team effort.

LV: Is this going to be a big year for the Gators?

CJ: It's going to be a really big year, so everybody better watch out. We're going to give the fans the kind of team they've been wanting for a long time.

* * *

Chad Jackson is a very confident young man and has the talent to back it up. I expect to see him have over a thousand yards as a receiver, about three or four hundred as a runner and some more on kick returns. 1,500 all-purpose yards and a dozen touchdowns sounds about right.

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