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Austin Jackson shows versatility in Army All-American Bowl

Moved from tackle to guard for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, five-star offensive lineman Austin Jackson showed his flexibility and power with one of most impressive reps of the week.

Phoenix (Ariz.) North Canyon offensive lineman Austin Jackson threw his initial punch. His right hand landed squarely in the chest of Newberry (Fla.) four-star defensive tackle Ja'len Parks.

The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Parks began shimmying backwards after being knocked off-balance by the powerful strike. There was no regaining his balance. Jackson had combined the opening right-handed blow with a stiff left arm that kept the pressure on Parks, keeping him at a distance and pushing him backwards.

Parks was in danger of being pancaked, so he latched on and tried to take Jackson with him. Jackson didn’t let up shoving Parks all the way out of the ring of players surrounding the East versus West one-on-one lineman battles. It may have been the single most impressive rep from the week of practices leading up to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. 

“He tried to rip me into the floor, so that didn't work out for him,” Jackson said. “I love competing with other kids recognized as the nation's top. It keeps me on my toes a little bit, you know? I really got to lock in for every single down and I like that. I like a challenge.”

The five-star Jackson was also challenged to play a new position this week. The No. 2 offensive tackle in the West and the No. 30 overall prospect in the 2017 Scout 300 was moved inside to guard due to the talent on the West roster. 

Seven of the nine offensive linemen on the Army All-American West team played left tackle for their respective high school teams. That includes the nation’s top two offensive tackles — Stanford commits Foster Sarell and Walker Little — who started Saturday’s game at the two tackle positions for the West.

“It's definitely an adjustment from playing tackle, a lot less space, but I understand there's a whole lot of tackles here that they invited,” Jackson said. “Just don't complain about it and just come in and do the work. I'm actually kind of starting to like it a little bit.”

Jackson also saw time lining up at tight end as an extra blocker in the West’s jumbo package. Though it is just one week of action at the two new positions, to go along with sometimes playing fullback on short-yardage situations for North Canyon, Jackson believes his versatility should help him when he gets to college.

“Definitely. Especially going into fall camp being able to play multiple positions is really going to make me a little bit more valuable.”

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Whose fall camp Jackson will attend is still in question. He said he is down to USC, Arizona State and Washington and has visited each, but kept open the door for potentially visiting Arizona and/or Michigan. Jackson likes the idea of playing for the local school, Arizona State, but is a Trojan legacy and had a great official visit to Washington.

USC head coach Clay Helton and offensive line coach Neil Callaway have met with Jackson on several occasions, including an in-home visit in December before the current dead period began. After the dead period concludes next week, Jackson intends to have head coaches Chris Petersen and Todd Graham over for in-home visits. 

Jackson is hoping to have his decision narrowed down and selected by late January and then will likely have a press conference to announce his choice.

He will soon return back to his basketball season, but Jackson plans to take some of the lessons he learned during the Army All-American experience with him.

“Definitely have to work with leverage. Leverage and using my length,” Jackson said of what he learned. “My length really helps me to my advantage a lot. I know me and coach, we've been working on that a lot and my post step, keeping away the inside.

“We also worked with reloading -- reloading my punch. Not giving it my all and leaving my feet. Just keep my feet moving and once I get that and my punch to come consistent then I'm pretty sure I can do a lot of damage.”

Ja’len Parks can attest.

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