Florida standout has surprising leader right now

Last year, the name was Fred Rouse. One of the hottest names in receiving, this Florida standout was recruited by anyone and everyone. Well, the sunshine state is not one to sit on its laurels when it comes to producing some of the nation's best talent and there's another wideout, who's already amongst the top receivers in the east. With offers from Florida State, Miami and just about anyone else, though, you'd be surprised as to who he says has the edge right now.

Receivers at the high school level that can amass over 1,200 yards in a year are special. When they can average almost 18 yards a reception in the process, that's even more-so. East Ridge high school in Clermont, Florida is home of just such a player, one who's name is already amongst the elite in the east.

At 6 foot, 4 inches tall, Richard Jackson already stands at the line of scrimmage with an advantage over almost all of the cornerbacks he's going to face. Being 205 pounds as just a junior doesn't hurt as well, because he's not just taller, he's bigger, hence more physical. Not a surprise then what Jackson thinks his biggest strength right now is when beating his guy to the ball.

"I'm just able to be more physical than they can be," Richard said. "I don't see a lot of bump ‘n run, because I can pretty much fight off the bump pretty easily and create space with my body."

The natural advantage of size is something that Jackson has used to his favor, but he'd be the first to tell you that size doesn't always matter. First, they play zone, then it's the double-team and after that, you are seeing a cornerback, a safety and even a linebacker coming over to take you out of your route. When all this comes as it has for Jackson, physicality becomes intelligence on the field. "You get used to the double-team after awhile," he said. "Then, you start looking downfield to see where the help is for the cornerback, if the linebacker is slotted up closer to you than he normally would be. It's a game to figure out where everyone is going to be coming from, but you know they are coming."

That didn't stop him last year, needless to say. And, it's probably only going to be just so effective this year, even with Clermont high school's move up to class 6-A, where all of the "big boys" play.

That move up in competition doesn't bother Jackson, though. Actually, the opposite, because these are the kinds of games he likes. "The tougher the schedule, the better I like it," he said. "You find out how good you are when you face great teams, so it's going to be a challenge, but a fun challenge when we get into the football season."

Jackson is almost into the football season, well, spring practices anyway, the spring session having just started today. It gives Jackson a chance to think about what his last year of prep-ball is going to be like. But, as he practices and coaches from various colleges around the country stand and watch he and his teammates, he can't help but to think about where he's going to spend his college days.

Florida State, Miami, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Wake Forest, Ole Miss, Pittsburgh, Kansas State, Georgia Tech, Iowa State and Central Michigan.

Those are the choices he has right now of those having offered him scholarships in writing. And, when you look at that list, you know that sooner rather than later, a lot more is sure to come.

The thing is, this is a Florida kid we are talking about, a native of Miami no less, so the chances of anyone outside of the state getting him are very slim indeed.

Well, maybe not.

"I know my family would probably want me to stay close, but I also know they want me to go to a place that is good for me, where I will get a good education and where I have developed a good relationship with the coaches," Jackson said. "So, I'm not looking at the in-state schools as the leaders or anything like that, because there's a lot of things I am looking into."

The biggest thing is something Richard eluded to and that is the relationship he's built with the coach or coaches recruiting him. Even with the academics in mind, the tradition of the school, playing time and all that, that entails, how he gets along with the coaches means the most of all. "Some coaches don't talk to me about anything but football," he said. "They talk to me like I'm a player and not a person."

"I have to have the kind of relationship with a coach that I know that they care about me, what I find important, what my family is like, just everything that has nothing to do with the game."

Richard has built relationships already with many coaches thus far, but even this early, he's giving one coach right now the edge. "Coach Jordan and I talk a lot and I know he cares about what's going on with me outside of the game," Richard said of Nebraska's running back coach and the primary recruiter in his area, Randy Jordan. "I call him once a week and we just talk about whatever."

"He's been great so far and because that means so much to me, I'd have to give them the edge."

Having the edge at any point is great, but Husker fans would no doubt this not be May when Jackson is saying this, rather possibly early February instead. As it is, I am sure they will take it for what it's worth, but realize that between now and then, the already impressive list of offers Jackson has is going to rise significantly.

With his own level of football back in his veins for the next three weeks, Jackson said that he's not going to be thinking about recruiting a whole lot. He'll concentrate on the team, but hopefully after that, he can start to look at his list and narrow it, even as it gets larger. "I am hoping that by the beginning of my season, I can have it down to around ten," he said. "I'll tell the rest of the schools about that and hopefully by the end of my season, I have a solid five. Then, I can take my official visits."

As for goals for his final year, Jackson doesn't have any outside of being better, his team doing better and ultimately making it to a place he wants to be. Pretty simple, but for Richard, he's making success look elementary.

Jackson has a 3.0 GPA and recorded a 980 on his SAT


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