Jimmy Jackson’s name may be simple and unexciting, but his game is something special.
While he may not have the flashy nicknames of fellow freshmen “Touchdown” Tony Temple or William “Helicopter” Franklin, Jackson, a 5-foot-9, 190 pound running back from Caruthersville, is turning heads with his impressive play in recent practices.
As coach Gary Pinkel and the Tiger coaches sort through the numbers and determine which newcomers will play, Jackson’s performance has moved his name onto the list of freshman who may see a possible redshirt season disappear.
“He is one of those guys that we’re looking at that has a chance, and we’ll see how that sorts itself out,” Pinkel said.
Pinkel’s philosophy is to play freshman who can help the Tigers win immediately, and he said that decision is made when a player moves into the top three at their position.
Jackson is not currently in the top three, with Damien Nash, Marcus Woods and Beau Viehmann listed ahead of him, but Pinkel said four running backs have to be prepared to play. Jackson could be that fourth back.
“We have to find out who that fourth guy is and how we use that and determine that,” Pinkel said. “If it becomes a freshman, we have to then decide how long we wait until we use him, if we’re going to use him and if we have injury, and I have to make that decision.”
Jackson said the reason for his rise up the depth chart and improved play is he has finally settled into Missouri’s offense.
“I think it’s because I’m getting comfortable,” Jackson said. “Because when I first came, I had to learn the offense, and I’m finally getting comfortable, I can see things.”
During Saturday’s scrimmage, Jackson made consecutive runs of 18 and 13 yards, and during last Tuesday’s scrimmage, he gained 26 and 11 yards on consecutive carries.
That kind of production has caught the coaches’ attention. Running backs coach Brian Jones said Jackson is talented, and he has been impressive for a freshman.
“He has worked very hard, and obviously in practice he has been making plays,” Jones said. “He is a very explosive runner, but he’s been a bit surprising for a freshman.”
While his play has surprised the coaches, it has not surprised Jackson who compares his running style to that of both Nash and Woods., but even with a similar style, Jackson was not a well-known recruit.
While Temple, Franklin and other recruits received more attention, Jackson was not bothered by the lack of attention; rather he focused on arriving in Columbia so he could work hard to gain attention for his play.
“I’m just going to work hard, regardless of anything,” Jackson said.