LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson arrived in Fayetteville two years ago as his recruiting class’ top-ranked overall prospect from the state of Arkansas.
And while the junior never redshirted, has appeared in 25 career games and has shown flashes of big-time ability, he’s struggled to make much of a contribution on the Razorback defensive line.
A deep, experienced and talented Arkansas defensive line provides part of the answer to why, but after practice earlier this week, Jackson said he knows another reason: His weight.
“My weight’s been fluctuating up and down since I’ve been here,” Jackson said. “I’m trying my hardest to keep it at a level where I can still move, but hold it down in the middle for SEC play.”
No. 20 Arkansas hosts Alcorn State on Saturday at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium. Jackson played significant snaps in last week’s loss to Texas A&M and should see similar action in Little Rock. Arkansas coaches are gaining confidence in Jackson’s ability to keep extra weight off, something he’s had trouble with throughout his entire time in Fayetteville.
There’s a pretty simple explanation for how such a thing happens because it happens all the time to college students everywhere. A little time away from home and independence often results in too many trips through drive-thru lanes.
And at various times over the last couple years, Jackson shed pounds only to get comfortable and add them back.
“I’ve just gotta keep that urgency in my mindset to eat right,” Jackson said.
Arkansas employs a full-time director of sports nutrition in Karla Horsfall, who joined the athletic department in 2015 and, according to Jackson, has made a difference for him.
“It’s been kind of an up-and-down battle for him,” said defensive line coach Rory Segrest. “There early in his career when he first came in, obviously it was a major issue.
“It’s something where we kept telling him, ‘Hey, you’re not going to be as effective if you keep putting weight on.’ So he’s done a nice job just focusing in on trying to maintain his weight and keep it where it needs to be and being an effective player.”
Before the season, Jackson fell behind true freshman Austin Capps on the Arkansas depth chart. But he got an opportunity to play more against Texas A&M after Capps’ injury in a scooter accident last week.
He performed well enough against the Aggies that now, he and Capps are listed together with an “OR” between them behind starter Taiwan Johnson on the Hogs’ updated depth chart.
“I’ve never really let things like that get to me,” Jackson said when asked about dropping behind Capps during the preseason. “I think that’s the most important thing. I’ve gotta keep my attitude high. I’ve gotta keep everything high, my energy and everything.
“I’ve always been a personable guy and I’ve stayed like that throughout the entire thing. I think that’s one of the things that’s helped me get back to where I need to be and hopefully I can keep making progress.”