The Hurry-Up: Donovan Jackson Ready for “Monster” Season After Adding Strength and Trimming Fat, Notes on Four 2022 Buckeye Targets

By Zack Carpenter on June 18, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Donovan Jackson

The Hurry-Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.

Jackson improving physically, ready to start season

When Ohio State landed a commitment from Donovan Jackson in January, Greg Studrawa and Co. were not just getting a standout lineman from an area (Houston) that the Buckeyes had not had a ton of success recruiting in the past. They were also getting one of the best overall talents in the entire country. 

This spring, Jackson was bumped in his recruiting ratings into a five-star offensive lineman, having shifted from offensive tackle to offensive guard, where he is the top-ranked player at the position in America. And on Wednesday, Jackson was bumped even further.

In 247Sports’ Top247 rankings, Jackson was bumped from No. 11 to No. 6 overall in the rankings, giving the Buckeyes three players ranked in the top 10 of the rankings in their 2021 class – along with players Jackson will soon block in practice (defensive end Jack Sawyer) and block for (running back TreVeyon Henderson) in Columbus, as Sawyer slid to No. 5 overall and Henderson moved to No. 10 overall. 

Jackson is ranked No. 21 in the composite rankings, giving Ohio State more players ranked in the top 25 of the composite rankings (quarterback Kyle McCord is the fourth) than any other team in the country. The Buckeyes have far more top-50 commits (seven) in America than any other program; Clemson (three), Alabama, Texas and Tennessee (two each) are the next closest. 

One of the reasons that players like Jackson and Jayden Ballard – who saw a massive rise in the rankings – are getting noticed more is because the analysts at 247Sports have been able to dive much deeper into game film of each prospect, including being able to look at the film of those prospects’ teammates so that it’s not exclusively highlight tape that they are dissecting for each player, and it provides a more granular picture of each player. 

They are also able to talk to their sources on the ground in each area of the country more frequently to get a better gauge of each player. That might have been the case with Jackson, who has been impressing in the weight room and on the practice field throughout the spring before he and his Episcopal High School teammates returned to the field to begin their defense of the state championship they captured last season.

“D starts up practice on the 15th and is anxious to get started with defending the crown,” Jackson’s father, Todd Jackson, told Eleven Warriors.

Todd then detailed some of the work his son has been putting in throughout the quarantine shutdown in order to prepare for when things opened back up.

“He trimmed fat and put on more muscle, benching 400 and squatting 500. Had a 32-inch vertical two weeks ago after a two-hour intense training session,” Jackson said. “He’s gonna be a monster this year.”

Todd says that Donovan had added about 60-70 pounds to both his bench and squat numbers since the offseason began. He was able to focus a bit more on offseason weight training since the track and field season was canceled. Last May, Donovan won Southwest Preparatory Conference state championships in both the shot put (with a 52-foot, 3.25-inch personal record) and the discus (with a personal record of 165 feet).

Since Episcopal does not offer early graduation, Jackson will not be an early enrollee at Ohio State, as he will instead be focused on capturing state titles in both events once again next spring.

When he does arrive to campus, Jackson will begin a career that has a chance to be special. Before he has officially become a Buckeye, there are already expectations that he has a chance to become a multi-year starter and possibly an All-American by following in the footsteps of players like Wyatt Davis at the position.

His physical improvements this offseason should only aid in that quest, as he already seems to possess the physicality and correct mentality to be a top-tier college player in the trenches.

“When I get into a stance, I just read everything. Everything slows down,” Donovan told Eleven Warriors in January, shortly before announcing his commitment. “When the ball is hut – when the play goes – I just see it slow down so much. If I’m double-teaming somebody, I look up and see the linebacker flowing, or I see his eyes shift, I know he’s coming this way. Or if he’s blitzing, I see him looking at me instead of the receiver. Or I see his feet facing me. Or I see him on his toes. The little keys like that, I see it before it happens. That’s why we either audible or do something like that.”

Extra notes

Some more tidbits of information to lay down are that the recruitments of 2022 prospects like safety Zion Branch, defensive back Ephesians Pryscock and tight end Donovan Green – the No. 1-ranked player at the position – are all going smoothly, as is the recruitment of 2023 quarterback Malachi Nelson, who remains the lone sophomore with an offer from the Buckeyes thus far.

Green says he is speaking with Kevin Wilson often and that it’s been made clear he is the Buckeyes’ No. 1 target at the position. It’s been essentially status quo with Branch and Prysock as the relationship-building process is continuing to move forward with no true updates quite yet.

Nelson, meanwhile, says that nothing has slowed down too much in the recruiting process, with both workouts and recruitment as busy as ever. (When you’re playing the most important position in team sports and viewed as one of the best in the country, there’s no surprise there.)

Nelson has spoken recently a couple times with Day and Corey Dennis, and he says “it’s a blessing” to be this far along in the process already. We’ve said this a few times already, but he will probably emerge as one of the biggest recruits to watch nationally over the next two years as long as he continues to progress as a quarterback. 

He hasn’t yet played a snap as a sophomore and already holds 15 offers from a litany of impressive programs: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Texas and USC have all offered.

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