Coming in to spring practice, red shirt freshman running back R. J. Jackson already has learned some valuable lessons about college football.
No position is safe and everything
can change in the blink of an eye.
These lessons came after
witnessed the 2005 season of Alley Broussard end before LSU played its first
game. Broussard suffered a season
ending knee injury in fall camp, an ailment that Broussard continues to
Jackson also watched as Justin Vincent tore his ACL against
the University of
Georgia in the Southeastern
Conference Championship Game. Like
Broussard, Vincent has been spending most of spring practice healing his
Because of these two injuries, much
of the workload for the running backs has fallen on the shoulders of Jackson and
junior Jacob Hester.
Even with spending most of his time
with the first teamers, Jackson has not felt any added pressure. Instead, he is soaking in the experience
of his first spring camp.
"I'm just trying to fit into my
role right now," Jackson said. "Take it one day at a time, learn the
offense, and try to contribute to the team."
Jackson added that while he wants to make a
strong impression during practice, he has tried not to take himself too
serious. He simply wants to go out
there everyday, play the game he loves, and have fun.
That laid-back approach could
change, though, if Jackson's responsibility to the offense
continues to grow. LSU head coach
Les Miles said he's been impressed with the progress Jackson has made thus far
"R.J. is a very bright guy and very
talented," Miles said. "Quick feet, good hands, quality speed. He's really just
coming of age in the offense and understanding what we expect of
Miles added that if Broussard and
Vincent are not fully healed by the start of the 2006 season, he would have no
difficulty putting Jackson in the starting role.
"Everything that I've seen this
spring would give me confidence in him," Miles said.
That vote of confidence from his
coach has given Jackson an even stronger belief that he could
lead in the backfield next season.
"For [Miles] to say that, it boosts
my confidence so much," Jackson said.
Jackson signed with LSU in 2005 as one of the
hottest recruits in the country.
His name appeared on numerous top recruiting lists after his career at
School in Houston, where his jersey was retired following
his senior year.
In high school, Jackson rushed for over
1,000 yards his junior year and nabbed six interceptions at the defensive back
position in the same season.
These high school numbers mean
nothing at the collegiate level, and Jackson knows that in order to see similar
success at LSU, he needs to stay focused in practice. In the first three weeks
of the spring, Jackson has begun to see a difference in his
physical and mental approach to the game.
"I've noticed a tremendous change
since I came in as a freshman last fall," he said.
Yet, Jackson admits there are still some areas that
he can improve upon. Jackson said he feels
pleased with his overall performance during the practices, but wants to polish
"I'm still trying to learn and pick
up on some little, minor things," he said. "I have a basic concept about the
offense and my role."
Jackson has found some additional help from the
very same teammates he's replaced this spring. Jackson said Broussard and Vincent have coached
the freshman from the sidelines and shared their game experiences.
"It's one thing to learn it from a
coach, but then to actually have a football player that has had some experience
in the game time situations and is still there teaching you, that's a blessing,"
Jackson said. "It helps the transition go a lot smoother."
With the uncertainties about the
health of the Tiger's veteran backs, a smooth transition for Jackson could become vital
for the success of next year's team. As last season proved, unpredictable
injuries can pop up at any second and force second stringers to make a big
Although the idea has lingered in
he said he tries not to let the thought of injuries consume his attention on and
off the field. Rather, Jackson just assumes he will be the leading man
when the fall rolls around, and practices with the intensity a starter should
"I just go out everyday and
practice as though I'm starting," he said.
Using this approach, Jackson continues to
impress his coaches and improve his playing with an attitude extending beyond
the level of a freshman.
"I just take it one day at a time
and try to get better everyday and everywhere," Jackson said.