|School:||Philadelphia, Pa.(West Catholic HS)|
With the uncertainty surrounding Anwar Phillips return to the Nittany Lions, the Penn State coaches may have secured their biggest verbal commitment last Friday when Philadelphia (West Catholic HS) defensive back Jonathan Jackson announced his intentions to sign with Penn State. Jonathan visited Penn State the weekend of January 18th, but did not announce his decision until the 24th at a school press conference.
"There was about four or five papers there, the Daily News and The Inquirer, a couple teachers, couple students, my mom, and the coaches. I had a little speech too."
After Jackson's speech, he took off his jacket to reveal a Penn State t-shirt underneath. The Nittany Lions were a relative newcomer to the Jackson derby, entering after seeing a senior season highlight tape late in the football season. When did Jonathan know he wanted to be a Nittany Lion?
"When I was up there on my visit. We were eating lunch and I was talking to the Dean of Admissions for Communications, with Coach Vanderlinden, another student, my mom, and her friend, I really felt that I was going to be all right at Penn State. Why 16-18 hours away when I could get a good education and play good football three hours away."
"They all reassured me that I would be all right."
However Jonathan did not commit to the Nittany Lions while on his official visit.
"I didn't tell anyone I was going to (commit) until I came back."
Jonathan held off making a verbal because he had coaches from other colleges already scheduled for in-home visits and he felt obligated to hear them out. Prior to his commitment to the Nittany Lions, Jackson had visited Minnesota (12-6), Syracuse (12-13), and Wisconsin (12-20). Both Coach Pasqualoni of Syracuse and Coach Alvarez of Wisconsin made a final pitch before Jonathan announced.
During the recruiting process, Jonathan did not believe he was qualified, coming up short on reaching an 820 on his SAT, even though he maintains a 3.0 GPA. However, the Syracuse and Penn State coaches both notified him that he was fully qualified according to the NCAA's new sliding scale.
"I have a qualifying SAT. They have a new sliding scale. The higher your GPA, the lower your SAT can be."
"I just took the test yesterday, just to take it. I'm hoping to get a higher score."
West Catholic Head Coach Brian Fluck feels that Jonathan will achieve his goal of scoring an 820 on the SAT. He also gave Lionnews.com a little bit of insight into the hows and whys of Jonathan's qualification.
"They have that new sliding scale that they [the NCAA] just put in about a month ago where a higher GPA with a lesser SAT score gets you qualified. He took an extra core course, a fourteenth class, which West Catholic does. It gives you a prep course, so you can use the sliding scale which means if your GPA is higher your SAT can be lower than an 820."
"According to the NCAA, you have to have 14 core courses, instead of 13, over the four years."
"He wants to get the 820 to show that he can do it, so I believe he will keep taking until he gets that 820. I told him keep fighting for it. I think he's more comfortable with it now, so I think he's going to get it."
Jonathan, who plans to major in communications at Penn State, will be used somewhere in the defensive backfield at Penn State, though he ultimate position has not been decided upon by the coaching staff.
"They recruited me as a d-back and told me be ready to play. They said I have the ability to play both, corner or safety."
Jackson, who also runs track, certainly possesses the speed to play either position on the college level.
"I run the 100, 200, and 400. My best time in the 100 is 10.8 (last year's Catholic League Championship). In the 200, it's 21.8."
Coach Fluck believes that Jackson would make a great addition to the Pennsylvania Big 33 squad as a defensive back. Where does he feel Jonathan will fit in at Penn State?
"They want to bring him in camp and work him at both. They're not really sure where they need him at. They're hurting at the dback position--they only have four corners that are scholarship players and not many safeties either."
"He played safety for us because we wanted to try and keep him more to the middle of the field. We didn't want to lock him up man to man all the time because we wanted him free to cover the field. We played him man to man when we blitzed some, so he can cover people. It's just a matter of adjusting. It'll actually be a little bit easier, because at our level, we had him doing a ton of things for us. He was kind of eraser back there. We were moving him around doing different things, so at corner, half the time he'll be locked up with a wide receiver. He has great ability to come off and make hits."
"He runs a 4.35 that was clocked at Valley Forge (combine). He has great ability to cut on a dime and great close out ability, where he sees the ball and attacks it. He's a very aggressive dback. I think he'll only get quicker and stronger once he enters college."
How does Jonathan describe his playing style?
"I have speed and I can come up and hit. I'm very aggressive."
He also admitted that he's not the flashy, dancing type defensive back that you see in the NFL today.
"I make the hit and go back to the huddle."
(Interviews by Steve Curry)