ECU's Jackson ready to see some action|UK transfer leads talented RB group

Published 12:53 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Contributing Writer

GREENVILLE — Brandon Jackson has never played a college football game in his life and already the expectations for East Carolina University’s 5-10, 202-pound sophomore running back are as high as the steps he takes when he rumbles between the tackles.
Jackson, an Oregon native, signed with the University of Kentucky in 2007 where the school immediately slapped a redshirt on him. The tailback graduated from Marist Catholic High School after being named the top rusher in the Pacific Northwest by
The rusher got off to a rocky start at his new school and decided in the fall of 2008 that he wanted off the same Wildcats squad that would go on to beat East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl.
“I was being recruited by most of the Pac-10, a few WAC schools, Boston College and Kentucky,” Jackson said during ECU’s media day. “I went to Kentucky because, at the time, it felt like the best place to be. When I got there, and I don’t want to say anything bad about them, but I guess in my mind it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.”
When asked if his reason for transferring was rooted in his standing on the depth chart or issues with the coaching staff, the diplomatic running back made it a point to not assess blame to Kentucky.
“It may have been at the time due to my maturity level,” Jackson said. “I may not have handled some situations the best way. I may have put too much expectancy on myself … It just didn’t really work out.”
The Wildcats’ loss was the Pirates’ gain, as Jackson used an impressive spring scrimmage to rush to the top of a deep depth chart at running back. The tailback ran for a game-high 48 yards on 15 carries in the first scrimmage, and led the ground attack in the second scrimmage with 48 yards on eight carries.
“Brandon Jackson is more of a Brandon Simmons-type runner,” ECU wide receiver Dwayne Harris said. “He’s very downhill and more of a power back. He’s not going to out-run you, but he has speed and can get around the corner and make a couple of moves to get another 10 yards.”
Jackson heads into camp as the tentative leader of a group of talented rushers, whom for various reasons saw their individual stock drop.
Senior Dominique Lindsay was penciled in as the No. 1 back in 2008, but a knee injury suffered in training camp sidelined him for the entire season. Lindsay will look to reclaim his spot this spring and heads into camp second on the depth chart.
Jonathan Williams was off to an impressive 2008 campaign as he ran for 380 yards (5.1 per carry) and five touchdowns through seven games before being arrested on assault charges. The 6-1, 200-pound junior may be the most talented of the group, but has to pay his dues with the team and coaches before he can get back to the top of the heap.
Norman Whitley, who led East Carolina with 698 yards last year, showed flashes of brilliance, but the promising back violated teams rules during the offseason and is also rehabbing a shoulder injury.
Overshadowed at times is senior J.R. Rogers, who received 33 carries last season and ran for 134 yards (4.1 per carry). The speedy back is listed third on the depth chart behind Jackson and Lindsay.
Jackson is well aware of the fact that just because he is No. 1 now, it may not stay that way.
“It’s a great opportunity, but it could be a long fall down,” Jackson said. “When you come in and you have people expecting great things out of you, then it’s up to you if you are going to fulfill them or if you are going to let people down. Every down I step out here and try and work my hardest so I can fulfill those expectations.”
The fight for playing time will be fierce, but the business major said that, no matter how the situation plays out, the bond between backs will not be broken.
“There is no animosity between us,” Jackson said. “John was one of my first friends when I got here. Dominique helped me throughout the whole entire spring, Norman was one of my first friends when I got here, and me and J.R have developed a relationship over the spring as we battled back and forth.
“There is not the least bit of bad chemistry. Everybody helps each other and everybody understands the way that it is; that if you don’t play it’s going to be on you. You have to put the pressure on yourself and not the situation.”
Jackson, who served on the scout team last year, said that it was hard to look on as the Pirates seemed to get thinner at the running back position week by week and not be able to participate due to the transfer rule that sidelines athletes who change schools.
“The whole entire season, I just wanted to be a part of it all,” Jackson said. “At times I was like, ‘I just wish I could be our there to help.’ When John had his situation and some of our other backs got hurt, I just wanted to be like, ‘Hey, I can go out there and help.’ I was just sitting there not being able to do anything. But, at the same time, that season is behind us, and now there is a new one.”
The sophomore may have a mature perspective, but when the topic swung to the season opener against Appalachian State, the articulate Jackson struggled to describe his anticipation.
“I can’t even put it into words what it feels like to know the season is right around the corner and I have great health, great teammates and a great opportunity to win games,” Jackson said. “It’s just very overwhelming, so I just try to keep my self focused on the fact that whenever I’m in (the game) I just have to help me team win.”
Jackson will get his chance on Sept. 5 when Appalachian State heads to Greenville to kickoff the season.