The dice remain hot at the Joe Craft Football Training Facility with Kentucky picking up their fourth commitment since Friday. This time the most recent pledge happened on the defensive side of the football with Georgia inside linebacker D’Eryk Jackson committing to Kentucky thanks to the recruiting work done by Jon Sumrall.
Jackson camped with UK yesterday and after seeing him in action, Kentucky’s staff knew they needed to add the Mike linebacker prospect to the class of 2020. The deep south native has listed offers from Ole Miss and Mississippi State so it’s clear that the low three-star prospect is someone big schools find intriguing. He fits the mold for the thumper type linebacker UK likes to have in the middle of its 3-4 defense.
It’s now time to take a look at the tape and see just what Jackson will bring to the defense ran by Mark Stoops and Brad White.
The first thing that jumps off when watching film on D’Eryk Jackson is the physicality. On nearly every tackle, the linebacker is knocking people backwards. He’s violent when he arrives to the football and there is no forward progress to be had once contact is made. Jackson is at his best when he is able to read the play and get downhill quickly. Here he hammers the running back on the reception out of the backfield. In college, he’ll have to prove he can make plays in space but on tape he shows the required athleticism to be able to flip his hips and sprint to the sideline in order to make a stop for a minimal gain.
UK asks their middle linebackers to become heavily involved in stunting (a fancy football word for blitz). Yes, Kash Daniel made a living last year on run blitzes to create some havoc plays but UK also needs their guy in the middle to assist in the pass rush. Anytime an inside linebacker is asked to blitz, it’s more than likely going to require for him to take on a running back. A college linebacker must dominate these isolation situations. Here, D’Eryk Jackson makes quick work of the blocker to collect the quarterback pressure and force an incompletion. This is just another example that Jackson is at his best playing downhill.
However, you’re not going to be in a run blitz look all the time. More times than not, your middle linebacker is going to have to read and react to make a play. When you’re lined up inside, that often means working your way through heavy traffic in order to make a play on the ball. You must be instinctive and physical to play this position. D’Eryk Jackson shows those traits by quickly recognize the outside zone run. He fills to his spot and takes on the right tackle while maintaining outside leverage by keeping his left arm and shoulder free. After beating the block, he makes a drag down tackle. You don’t see many of those on Jackson’s tape but they are still important. Not every stop is going to be a big hit. At linebacker in the SEC you must be able to make all kinds of different tackles to get the skill player to the ground.
D’Eryk Jackson is now the eighth member of Kentucky’s 2020 class and the third front seven player to join the fold. Similar to Kash Daniel and Courtney Love, Jackson fits the bill for what UK likes to have with their Mike linebacker. He’s a downhill thumper who drops the hammer when he arrives to the ballcarrier. Jackson is at his best screaming down the hill or knifing through gaps to produce a run stuff. He should be a key cog in the future of UK’s run defense.
Moving forward, the inside linebacker must prove he can make plays in space so he can stay on the field on all three downs. Listed at 235 pounds, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him play around 245 during his senior year of high school. When he gets to college, however, he must find a playing weight that allows him to play fast and free. Entering his junior season, Kash Daniel had to slim down and D’Eryk Jackson may have to do the same. Kentucky has had a lot of success on the defensive side of the football with some low three-star recruits and Jackson will look to be the next one in line.