At Tennessee, Theo Jackson will be responsible for shutting down an opponent’s aerial attack.
But this fall, Jackson, a 3-star 2017 commit for the Volunteers, will be charged with jumpstarting the passing game at Nashville’s Overton High School.
For the first time in his career, Jackson — recruited as a versatile, hard-hitting safety — will play quarterback full-time for the Bobcats. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Jackson still will roam the secondary, but his focus this fall is mostly on his new role.
“I’ve been playing quarterback for a long time. But every year we’ve always had a quarterback and they really didn’t need me to start there,” he said.
“This year we’re short there, so I have to step up and play. It has been an adjustment. Learning the playbook because our offense is different is challenging.”
Jackson took snaps as a ‘Wildcat’ quarterback last season, but he’s out to prove he consistently can throw the ball, aiming for more than 1,000 passing yards. He has defensive goals, too, wanting to improve on his three-interception season in 2015.
Jackson, long considered a UT lean, committed to Tennessee during ‘Orange Carpet Day,’ choosing the Vols over Vanderbilt, Alabama, Louisville and others.
“I knew I was going to commit way before I went up there,” Jackson said.
“I have a great relationship with all the coaches, especially (linebackers coach Tommy) Thigpen and (high school relations director Patrick) Abernathy. I have known them for a while. The opportunity to stay in state and play in front of my friends and family is a nice opportunity to take.”
Five things to know
1. He could play three different positions in Tennessee’s secondary: “I’ll be playing everywhere. I’ll play safety, corner, their nickel (STAR) position. Everywhere back in the DB area. (Defensive coordinator Bob) Shoop really wants me to help them build a championship defense.”
2. He will take all five official visits this fall: “I’m definitely going to UT, but I just want to see more of the country. Just be a kid and enjoy it.”
3. He models his game after two standout safeties in the NFL: “Tyrann Mathieu and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix. They’re ballhawks.”
4. He doesn’t have any pregame superstitions: “No, not really (laughing). I just go out and ball.”
5. He’s friends with Tennessee commits and LaVernge teammates Maleik Gray and Princeton Fant, and he’s proud they’re all staying in-state and putting Tennessee prep football on the map: “It shows other places, schools that Tennessee will look in-state (for recruits). It shows other schools that Tennessee high school football players are getting better and better.”
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Jesse Simonton covers Tennessee football and recruiting for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and SECCountry.com