Jackson loves Dawgs, but leaving door open

ATHENS – Toby Jackson likes Athens and the University of Georgia… a lot.

But Jackson doesn't believe in limiting his options. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound defensive end from Griffin still considers himself verbally committed to the Bulldogs.

"But I'm going to leave the door open for the other schools to recruit me," Jackson said this weekend.

The other schools are Miami and Alabama, two schools riding the momentum of having first-year head coaches who are expected to turn around sliding dynasties. The Hurricanes have the added bonus of being Jackson's favorite team since childhood. In fact, had Miami offered Jackson a scholarship sooner rather than later, his commitment might not to be Georgia and it might be more firm.

"I've been waiting and waiting on their offer, and they just came in the picture," he said."I guess they were going to sit back and wait. Now that they're in the picture, I'm starting to look more at them."

New Alabama coach Nick Saban made an appearance in Griffin this spring to see Jackson, as did Georgia coach Mark Richt, Jackson said.

"I would say the thing I'm looking for is a place I can feel at home at a place I can feel comfortable bringing my family around, just a big community," he said.

Jackson knows he has time before he makes his words official, and he plans to take it. He said this weekend that he won't announce official choice until Feb. 6, National Signign Day. "That's when I'm going to say," he said.

Until then, Jackson will be concentrating on his senior season at Griffin High School, where he had 73 tackles and six sacks as a junior. Griffin opens its 2007 season Thursday.

"I'm ready to hit on somebody else now," he said. "We've got a very young team. We're really good, but we've got a bunch of young guys. Some of the guys starting this year have never played on a Friday so it'll be interesting to see. My responsibility is to encourage the guys on my team, keep them going, keep them thinking positive, keep their self-esteem up, let them know they're doing good."

Jackson will attend three or four Georgia games this season, he said, a fact which has to work in the Bulldogs' favor. There are plenty of things he likes about Georgia, he said.

"I liked the way Georgia handled their business," he said. "I like the way they are a family-oriented football team. Not only do the coaches care about you as a player, but they also care about you as a man."

Jackson also likes the defensive end tradition at Georgia.

"Some of the best defensive ends in the (NFL) right now have come from Georgia so I think I would fit in really well there," he said.

Jackson has family ties in Athens that may keep him tethered to the Bulldogs. His uncle was Freddy Gilbert, a defensive end who was a four-year starter for the Bulldogs and was named a UPI All-American in 1983.

"I think I would keep the tradition going," he said.

It's hard for Jackson to quantify exactly how committed he is to the Bulldogs now, he said.

"I wouldn't put a percentage on it," he said. "I would just say Georgia has a really great chance."

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