Jackson's loss ultimately bussiness as usual

The writing was on the wall. That's what they say about Leon Jackson's recent departure from the Huskers. This was inevitable and his loss is about as anti-climactic as it gets. Really? Do you think that's true? I don't, because this issue isn't about now, because we all know where this started. And maybe it was the beginning that signaled the end.

You are going to get an opportunity at running back, but we need safeties.

Basically, that's the message that was conveyed to Pasco prep star running back Leon Jackson, as he was mulling over which schools he'd like to attend. At 6 foot, 3 inches and approximately 195 pounds, Jackson was a sleek athlete, but when you saw him play, he was far more than that.

His running style was compared to that of former NFL great Eric Dickerson, as he was seen as a glider more than a runner, elusively fast, deceptively agile and just when you think you had him, he was gone. Averaging double-digits per carry his entire career at Pasco, it wasn't hard to see why many would see him as their running back of the future.

Or, that's what Leon hoped.

The problem was, as the players have gotten bigger, so to has the stereotype of what a certain position should look like and Jackson was looking good at running back, but he was looking REALLY good at safety.

Unfortunately for the prep star, that's the message he got from many colleges, Pac 10 to SEC, most telling him that he would make an ideal safety and that's what position they wanted him to play. The problem was, Jackson wanted to be a running back and those schools who were willing to offer him that shot or at least a legit opportunity, those schools would be the ones he would consider the most.

Now, you and I know what the belief was with Jackson when Nebraska became his official school of choice: They already had some talent there, were potentially thin at safety in the future and with his size and athleticism it only made sense. We all knew he was going to be a safety.

Jackson, though, maintained and insisted that he would be a running back, because that's what he wanted to be. He did relay the message the coaches gave him about how they needed safeties, but Jackson was confident that if he was given a fair shake at the position, he wouldn't have to worry about moving.

It was barely over a week and Jackson was playing on the defensive side of the ball.

Is that a fair shake? Was that lip service he got during the recruiting process to get him to commit to the big red? How do you define what an "opportunity" really is?

If you are the conspiracy theorist, you can look at Santino Panico to know that you don't have to be necessarily the best to start at your position. Panico ranked by average as one of the worst punt return men in the country and yet he kept his starting spot for the entire year. If you want to look at Jackson himself, while he was slated to play defense, he never actually did, serving as a member of the kickoff coverage team for the whole season.

So, what happened? Was Jackson simply not able to comprehend the offense and then not able to comprehend the defense, thus sponsoring the only move the coaches could make to get his kind of athleticism on the field?

Or did he get a raw deal?

Instead of using this one isolated example as your parameter, let's look at the whole of recruiting, something I think I can speak fairly intelligently about. And it comes from a slew of conversations I have had with kids over time as this staff has tried to lure the best of the best to the middle of the country.

I recall Mark Sanchez. I think you'll remember him. Nebraska had a legit shot at this kid. Believe it or not, there was a real chance they could lure him from the west coast to run the west coast in Nebraska. When Harrison Beck committed, they called Sanchez and said that they had gotten their guy.

With Harrison Beck, while I was not a fan of this particular strategy, they told him that if he committed, he would be THE guy and the only guy they take.

Certain things happened after that, which prompted to go after Taylor, but that was with the blessing of Beck, according to Beck himself. Of course, it's not like Harrison is going to say they can't recruit another QB. But the staff did go after one that in two years would be on his way out the door.

So, they stuck to their guns there it would seem.

I remember Jeff Souder once saying that the staff had relayed to him their scholarship situation and if they got the commits they wanted, a scholarship wouldn't; be available for him. Things panned out for Souder in that Nebraska had qualification issues with both Wallace Franklin and Broderick Hunter, freeing up a couple of ships, one of which he received.

Then there was A.J. Wallace, who Nebraska recruited for almost three years to play secondary, with the message that he would get a shot to play running back. But Wallace knew which position they really wanted him to play.

Penn State, who had initially offered Wallace as a safety, switched their message two months into the process, apparently convincing Wallace that he would be the next Reggie Bush. Nebraska stuck to their guns, said he would have the opportunity, but they needed defensive players.

Penn State got Wallace, Nebraska lost and the moral of that story is obvious.

Now I could nitpick and look for some examples where it would appear the staff wasn't completely forthright. But I know that in some cases, the recruit didn't hear what was being said, they heard what they wanted them to say. It's that process in your mind, where you take your belief, overlap what they are saying and discard the rest that doesn't fit.

When it comes to the issue of a player like in-state star Kyle Dooley, Dooley himself has said that he's gotten mixed messages from the staff, appearing more on the intent of stringing him along than telling him how things really are. Chances are, the staff doesn't look at Dooley as being part of their "A"-list, but they don't want to tell him that. So, you say a lot of things that are half truths, because you don't want to lose a kid like Dooley out of state, but you have other players you see as a higher priority.

That's recruiting, plain and simple.

It's not malicious in any way whatsoever, regardless of how you want to paint it.

It stinks when you are a player like Dooley, because like many kids growing up in the state, your dream is to play at NU. And with two other offers in hand, like Dooley has, it's not like you are some kid panhandling for something you don't really deserve. So, what's with the double message?

Ok, let's say I go to you and say "Yeah, we like you, but you really aren't on our top list. We think there are maybe five or six guys at your position that we like better."

Yep, that will keep them interested.

And that's the key here, because while you don't want to lead a kid on, if you told him that you didn't think he was as good as such and such group of players, he would tell you where to go and you can forget having any shot at him in the future.

Yes, kids respect honesty, but only when it favors their position and not the one on the field.

In Dooley's case, Nebraska isn't going after a lot of linemen. Honestly, I don't even know what's up with that whole debacle with offering Harland Gunn the say after Miami offered him in writing. As it is, the Huskers won't be going after a bunch, so that means they aren't looking at a bunch and it just so happens Dooley isn't at the top of the list.

That's ok, no biggie, Kyle is a good player and he can contribute well somewhere else.

Back to the original point, though, it's the message a recruiter tries to send.

If A.J. Wallace is playing DB in a year, what will that mean in respect to Penn State's honesty with him during the recruiting process? If Josh Freeman is moved to tight end, is that the coaches' fault for misleading him into believing he could be a first year starter or the kid's fault for believing he was that good right now?

The answer usually lies somewhere in the middle, a coach telling a player something about their situation in a way, which could be interpreted to say just what the recruit wanted to hear in the first place. And at 17 years of age on average, many hear just what they want and little more.

That's not to say of this applies to Leon Jackson. I found him to be a very genuine young man, a nice young man and someone that tried very hard to succeed. It could be that he does believe from looking at the depth chart at RB, based on his dealing with the staff in the past, he was going to get no more of a fair shake here as he did after he arrived. Or it could be something else.

There's a variety of theories you can involve in this scenario, all of which would have some basis, albeit with little substance in the end.

But that's recruiting, believe it or not. Coaches have to be coaches, but they also have to be salesmen, along with being good people as well. They have to convey what they can in order to inspire comfort, but confidence too. This young man needs to believe in everything they are trying to say.

Did Leon believe something that wasn't true? Did he leave, because he felt he was mislead? It's hard to say. Probably a little, but in the end, it could be that fault lies with both parties, but neither had any intent to mislead.

It's unfortunate when any player transfers or leaves the team, especially under such circumstances. This is hardly a rare thing, though. We only make so much of it, because Leon came in with all those stars attached to his name.

If he was a walk-on nobody heard of, there would be little said, if anything at all.

So, maybe it's a little of our fault too.

Maybe this is just business as usual, some happy, some not, some stay, some leave and the next day life goes on.

Sounds about right to me.

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