Entering the 2006 season, the Cornhuskers were searching through a slew of candidates to replace Cory Ross as their starting I-back. After Jackson underwent surgical procedures on both shoulders during his last two offseasons, the coaching staff was just hoping he would log some playing time during the season.
Little did they realize last August that by the end of the season, Jackson would emerge as the breakaway threat the Huskers desperately sought. Brought along slowly in the first five games, gaining 154 yards in the process, Jackson took over the starting role against Iowa State and went on to amass 835 yards on the ground in his final nine contests.
At Horn Lake High School, Jackson was chosen as the Class 5A Offensive Player of the Year by the Mississippi Coaches Association two consecutive years and was an all-region and all-state selection. He was named to the Dandy Dozen by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, signifying the top 12 players in the state of Mississippi. Jackson also received all-metro honors in the Memphis area his junior and senior years, and was Horn Lake's MVP as a senior. He played in the Mississippi-Alabama all-star game.
Jackson rushed for 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns for Horn Lake in 2003, helping the team to a 6-6 record and a trip to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs (largest class). He also had 200 receiving yards and one touchdown reception. As a junior, he rushed for 1,783 yards and 28 touchdowns, and made 20 receptions for 200 yards and two touchdowns. His performance helped Horn Lake to a 10-3 record and an appearance in the second round of the state playoffs.
Jackson lettered four times in track, and had a career-best of 10.6 seconds in the 100 meters. He was sixth at state in the 100 as a senior, and helped the 4x200-meter relay team finish third at state in 2004, while aiding the 4x100 relay team's fourth-place state finish. He was also part of the 4x400-meter relay team that was second at the Class 5A state meet in 2003.
Jackson was the first Nebraska signee from Mississippi since current Philadelphia Eagle running back Correll Buckhalter in 1997, choosing the school over offers from Mississippi State and Memphis. He played in 10 games as a true freshman in 2004, ranking fifth in the Big 12 with 17 kickoff returns for 359 yards (21.1 average). He also finished second on the team with 85 carries for 390 yards (4.6 avg.) and six touchdowns.
April surgery on his shoulder did not improve his condition, and Jackson struggled with the injury throughout the 2005 season. Even though he played in nine games, he was limited to 52 yards on 18 rushing attempts (2.9 avg.). He added 63 yards on six kickoff returns (10.5 avg.) and also had a 5-yard reception.
Even though he saw limited action through the first five games of 2006, Jackson went on to earn All-Big 12 Conference first-team honors. He ranked fifth in the conference with an average of 70.64 yards per game rushing, as he led the team with 989 yards and eight touchdowns on 188 chances (5.3 avg). He showed excellent receiving skills, making 33 catches for 313 yards (9.5 avg) and a pair of scores. He also totaled 157 yards on nine kickoff returns (17.4 avg.).
In 33 games at Nebraska, Jackson started 11 contests. He carried 291 times for 1,431 yards (4.9 avg.) and 14 touchdowns. He gained 318 yards with a pair of scores on 34 receptions (9.4 avg.) and scored 96 points. He also returned 32 kickoffs for 579 yards (18.1 avg.), finishing with 2,328 all-purpose yards, an average of 70.55 yards per game.
Positives: Has a compact, well-defined frame with good chest development, thick thighs and calves and deceptive burst to get out on the perimeter … Cuts sharply and changes directions suddenly … Makes quick decisions on the move, showing the field vision to locate soft areas on the field … Consistent in finding the cut-back lanes and changes direction well, showing the quick feet to side-step trash and break into the second level … Picks up defensive coverage well and is able to see the small cracks and explode through the holes … Even when he doesn't have the luxury of open lanes, he is capable of sinking his pads, redirecting and bouncing wide … Better when working along the perimeter, as he needs room to shift, and displays the balance and body control, along with forward lean, to pick up valid yardage after the initial hit … Aggressive inside runner with the weaving ability to pick-and-slide through traffic, doing a nice job of maintaining balance running through the pile and will keep his feet on the move … When he bounces to the outside, he can generate that accelerated second gear to separate from defenders upfield … Releases off the snap and gets into his routes smoothly in passing situations, showing marked improvement fielding the ball outside the framewor … Falls forward with good body lean and shows a good slide step to make the initial tackler miss … Can get to the corner, cut and break free down the sideline, building to top speed nicely … Runs at the low pad level you look for in a back (doesn't have to gear down to shift) … Has enough valid speed to be split wide in passing situations and is quite effective on swing routes … Lacks pop in his hips, but will face up as a blocker … Showed better patience waiting for his line to create rush lanes in 2006 than he did in the past … Shows no hesitation attacking the crease once he locates it, and has the field intelligence to avoid running into spots … Could use more upper body power, but can deliver a good stiff arm and has the proper pad level to bounce off tackles … Won't explode into tacklers, but has the leg drive to move the pile … One of his better assets is his ability to plant, drive and redirect, showing ease of movement to get past the second level … Has good hip swerve, head fakes and spin moves to set up and elude single tacklers … Knows how to shield the ball from defenders when working in the short-area passing game and has become a proficient underneath receiver due to his natural hands and ability to locate the soft areas in the zone … Can also provide emergency duty as a kickoff returner.
Negatives: Size is a bit of a drawback, as he has short legs that make it tough for him to simply run over tacklers in tight quarters … While he has good acceleration, he is not really explosive (4.55-second 40-yard dash at the Combine), and along with his short legs he can be run down by defenders in his attempts to go the distance (needs to set up his moves rather than try to enter a foot race) … Has a penchant for carrying the ball exposed working his way up field, and while this has not been much of a problem, he needs to protect the ball better … Has a history of shoulder problems that warrant further medical evaluation … Stamina might be an issue, as he runs hard early in games but tapers off late … Good receiver out of the backfield, but has had several costly drops as he prefers to absorb the ball rather than reach and pluck for it at its high point (poor timing on his leaps).
Compares to: J.J. Arrington, Arizona Cardinals … With only one season of heavy rush load work, Jackson is still a work in progress, but he shows he is a decent underneath receiver with some value as a return specialist … He appears to be very capable of breaking a game open with his speed, but while he flashes brilliance, he also disappears for long stretches on the field, making him appear to be better as a change of pace back than a featured runner … With two shoulder surgeries in two years, his durability is another concern.
2005: Underwent shoulder surgery after April camp.
2006: Underwent additional shoulder surgery (other shoulder/undisclosed) in fall camp.
Campus: 4.41 in the 40-yard dash … 36-inch vertical jump … 10-foot-1 broad jump.
Combine: 4.55 in the 40-yard dash … 1.56 10-yard dash … 2.62 20-yard dash … 4.14 20-yard shuttle … 11.47 60-yard shuttle … 7.0 three-cone drill … 37-inch vertical jump … 10-foot-2 broad jump … Bench pressed 225 pounds 21 times.
Attended Horn Lake (Miss.) High School, playing football for head coach Larry Gann … Chosen as the Class 5A Offensive Player of the Year by the Mississippi Coaches Association two consecutive years and was an all-region and all-state selection … Named to the Dandy Dozen by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, signifying the top 12 players in the state of Mississippi … Also received all-metro honors in the Memphis area his junior and senior years, and was Horn Lake's MVP as a senior … Played in the Mississippi-Alabama all-star game … Rushed for 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns for Horn Lake in 2003, helping the team to a 6-6 record and a trip to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs (largest class) … Also had 200 receiving yards and one touchdown reception … As a junior, he rushed for 1,783 yards and 28 touchdowns, and made 20 receptions for 200 yards and two touchdowns … His performance helped Horn Lake to a 10-3 record and an appearance in the second round of the state playoffs … Lettered four times in track, and had a career-best of 10.6 seconds in the 100 meters … Sixth at state in the 100 as a senior, and helped the 4x200-meter relay squad finish third at state in 2004, while aiding the 4x100 relay team's fourth-place state finish … Also part of the 4x400-meter relay team that was second at the Class 5A state meet in 2003.
Sociology major, earning 2004 Big 12 Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll recognition … Volunteer speaker for the 2005 Fall Break Tour of Excellence … Son of Barbara Jackson … Born Oct. 2, 1985, in Chicago, moving to Mississippi in 1996 … Resides in Horn Lake, Miss.