Birmingham, Farmington Juniors

Will Detroit Country Day and Farmington Hills Harrison put players in the 2003/04 Michigan recruiting class?

Michigan Junior to Watch: Earnest Jackson

Name: Earnest Jackson
School: Birmingham Detroit Country Day
State: Michigan
Position: Quarterback/Athlete
Height: 6-2 1/2
Weight: 190 lbs.
Forty: 4.5 in the 40
2002 Honors: Detroit Free Press First Team Division 5 All-State (QB); Detroit News Honorable Mention All-Metro Detroit (QB); Detroit Free Press Honorable Mention All-Metro North (QB); Detroit News Honorable Mention All-Metro North (QB); Oakland Press Honorable Mention All-Oakland County (QB).

Detroit Country Day is perhaps best known as 1) The alma mater of Chris Webber and Shane Battier; 2) Being one of the premier academic institutions in Michigan; 3) Most importantly (at least to me) being the school that I single-handedly beat by saving a goal in eighth grade soccer many eons ago and beat again my senior year on the gridiron. DCDS, however, has in recent years gotten much better in football than they were back in my time. Thgis can be seen by the number of Division 1 college football players who have matriculated from Country Day in recent years: Javin Hunter (Notre Dame), Ashton Aikens, Brandon Horn and Kim Thompson (all Northwestern). One of the best of the bunch looks to be junior QB/athlete Earnest Jackson. He will be the leader of perhaps the strongest senior class to ever come through Country Day (by the way, it would have been even stronger if Charles Stweart had not transferred to Farmington Hills Harrison last year). As a junior, Jackson established himself as perhaps the top underclass quarterback prospect in the state. He completed 75 of 148 passes for 1,539 yards and 14 TDs. Hes also rushed for around 350 yards and averaged about 5 yards per carry. He also was an explosive returner.

DCDS head coach Don MacLean had this to say about Earnest in late January: "Ernie was a junior starter at quarterback and also played some late in games at defensive back. He's also an excellent kick-returner. He's 6-2 1/2, 190 and ran a 4.5 forty last summer. He's a real good player and has the potential to be a real good college player. He's our best playmaker. He is a combination pas-run quarterback so we are contemplating going to the spread offense for his senior year. He's a good runner and he throws the deep ball very well. He has a very strong arm. He just needs to improve on the short ball. He's a real tough guy, a real competitor. He's an upper Big Ten level prospect. He will be one of the best players in the state based on other kids we have had. Michigan has asked for junior tape on him. Several other universities are in touch with him. Illinois and Northwestern are interested. I think he will get some offers this spring. He's a top 10 player in the state. He's just sitting back and waiting in terms of a college choice. It's pretty evident that he will get recruited by a lot of people. He's solid academically with a 2.9 or 3.0 GPA."

Here is what David Birkett of the Oakland Press had to say in an article published byack on November 15, 1002: "Ernie Jackson is the Swiss Army knife of high school quarterbacks, able to carve up opponents many different ways. So when an eye injury made seeing downfield all but impossible during the first half of Birmingham Detroit Country Day's playoff-opening win over Detroit Crockett two weeks ago, it surprised no one that Jackson begged his way back into the lineup at tailback. ‘His helmet got jarred right into his eye or right below his eye, kind of knocked him loopy,' Country Day coach Dan MacLean said. ‘He was having double vision out of that eye. He took a couple of shotgun snaps where he couldn't find the ball, it hit him in the helmet, fumbled, we had to scramble to pick him up.' When Jackson's vision returned to normal early in the second half he returned to his normal position of quarterback. Early in the fourth quarter he hit Kim Thompson with a 62-yard pass to set up Hugh Johnson's game-winning touchdown run. But Jackson made such an impression in his limited time at tailback - about six carries - that a move first born out of necessity is now another part of the Yellowjackets' gameplan. ‘We kind of came out of the DeLaSalle game, which we couldn't throw at all because of the weather, and we kind of decided if we're going to make a serious bid for this thing we've got to be better at running the ball,' MacLean said of Country Day's regular season-ending 3-0 loss to Warren DeLaSalle. ‘So we just took a good hard look at our personnel and we said these are the guys we think can get it done. ‘Our backup quarterback, C.J. (Karchon), is a very capable guy and gets in there and does a nice job and can run the team, and Ernie gives us such a threat back there. And the ability to change up and use different guys and keep people somewhat rested, it's good. It's kind of what we envisioned at the start of the year, not so much Ernie going to tailback but we thought we had a good crew of running backs.'…… ‘Basically, we're trying to go right at teams," said Johnson, Country Day's punishing fullback. "Get the running game going to complement the passing game because Ernie's a pretty good quarterback where he can run and pass. I'm just trying to play my part, get positive yardage on every run." Jackson, a junior, is one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the state. He has completed 68-of-133 passes on the year for 1,310 yards and 13 touchdowns in 10 games. He also has rushed for 401 yards on 70 carries and, if not for sacks, could have more than 2,000 yards of total offense. Jackson's powerful arm and game-breaking speed have led legendary Birmingham Brother Rice coach Al Fracassa to compare him to Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. ‘It makes me happy to hear I'm compared to somebody like Michael Vick,' Jackson said. ‘Everybody says he's going to be the greatest quarterback. He's probably the most versatile quarterback. When you hear things like that it gets you excited.'

In the mold of recent metro Detroit area athletes as Jermaine Gonzales and DiAllo Johnson, there is no question that Earnest has the ability to play college football at the highest level. The question is at what position. There is no doubt that he is a good enough athlete and passer to play quarterback at a number of Division 1 schools. What about at Michigan given the Wolverines recent history of moving QB-athletes to other positions after failed attempts at QB? I guess that's the $64,000 question.

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Michigan Junior to Watch: Charles Stewart

Name: Charles Stewart
School: Farmington Hills Harrison
State: Michigan
Position: Defensive Back/Wide Receiver
Height: 6-2
Weight: 190 lbs.
Forty: 4.57 in the 40
Charles Stewart was a varsity starter for Detroit Country Day School as a freshman and sophomore before transferring to Farmington Hills Harrison for his junior year. He had an average junior season at Harrison starting at free safety and wide receiver. As a senior he will be shifting into departing senior Marcus Woods' starting tailback spot and also move to cornerback on defense.

Harrison head coach, John Herrington, had this to say about him in late January: "Charles will shift to tailback and cornerback as a senior after starting at free safety and split end as a junior. He's 6-2, 190 and runs a 4.57 forty. He did not have a knack of getting to the ball and he only had one interception. He's a hard hitter. He played at Country Day as a sophomore. He's a definite Division 1 prospect."

Country Day head coach Don MacLean, who coached Stewart as a freshman and sophomore, had this to say about him in late January: "He has a lot of potential. It's just a question of how he will put it together. He has a lot of speed and is getting bigger all the time. He played varsity football as a freshman. I'm not really sure why he decided to transfer from Country Day."

Stewart was extremely impressive at the Michigan State Nike camp last spring however he did not enjoy a very good junior year. Perhaps the shift to cornerback will better suit his skills. There are conflicting reports on whether Stewart is a Michigan caliber prospect. One source has indicated to me that Stewart has already received an early offer from Michigan. However, I very much doubt this based on his junior season performance. Another very well-placed source has told me that Stewart is a wait-and-see kid for the Big Ten and at the very least a MAC-level prospect." Stewart attended several Michigan games this past season and word is that he is a big Michigan fan.

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