'Canes Alumni Interview - James Jackson Pt. 6

In Part 6 of James Jackson's exclusive interview with CanesTime.com, Jackson talks about Miami's reputation as "running back U," how running a balanced offensive system prepared him for the NFL, who he thinks is the best running back ever at Miami, and how Miami went from the top of the college football world to where it is today.

CT – I wanted to ask you a little bit about the runningback position in particular. There's no question that Miami is running back U, is there?

JJ – No, no there's not. I have this conversation all the time. I have this conversation with my neighbor who is a Gator fan. A lot of college create great college players. Miami creates great NFL players. When I look at the Florida Gators and all those players who came out of that school and you have maybe Alex Brown, who is pretty good, Fred Taylor, Jevon Kearse had some success. I can't think of a lot of players that they put out who are great NFL players. There are a lot of great college guys who had great college careers but that doesn't translate to the NFL.

CT – Is that because of the system and that balance you were talking about earlier?

JJ – Absolutely. You know another thing was the level of competition we had in school. It made such a big difference. 40 time, benching, squatting, things like that. It made a difference having to play against Dan Morgan in practice. A lot of times when I would play against other people they weren't as fast as Dan running sideline to sideline. When I would play against other people it wasn't the same. A lot of times I would make a cut and there would be no one there, whereas in practice I would make a cut and I would feel Dan right there, like I could hear him breathing. A lot of times I would break to the open field and stutter step and wait for someone to come. That made a difference, playing against that level of competition in practice, because we pushed each other. In practice I'd tell Dan that I was going to run right through him that day, and he said the same to me. We went at each other. We would play ones against ones and I would tell him right there. That was fun for us, that was what it was all about, is being a warrior.

CT – Who do you think is the best running back ever to play at Miami?

JJ – Well obviously I'm going to say myself. But if I exclude myself, I'd have to say Willis McGahee. He was probably the most complete back. That year he had was unbelievable. Willis basically had Najeh type size, not quite as big but at 225, he had my speed. That was ridiculous watching him run over, around, through teams. And he wasn't even going to be a starter until Frank Gore got hurt.

CT – You spoke about coaching and being self-coached a bit earlier. What do you think we can attribute Miami's slide from where you left the program to what it is now?

JJ – I don't want to rag on Coker because Coker was a great play caller. I think a big part of what happened was they got rid of the core of what was Miami, which was Coach Sol (Soldinger), Chud, you know when Moffit left that was a big deal, Kehoe. Getting rid of guys like that hurts. Getting rid of guys that you consider part of the program, those guys for the most part, when you get rid of those guys and bring in new guys, it hurts because they have a system that works. They've been working with each other and know each other and know how to make it work. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why they fired Coach Sol. What did he do, just put 6 consecutive running backs into the NFL? Coach Sol is without a doubt for me the best when it comes to training runningbacks. I've been in the NFL, I've been around running back coaches. Coach Sol motivated us but he was like a father figure. I can't explain how important that is. You wanted to work harder for someone who was more than just your boss. When he's a friend you don't want to let him down. You'll give a little bit extra for your friend to not disappoint him or see him with the look on his face like "wow, I put all this work into you and you let me down."

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