Q&A: Bo Jackson’s High School Coach Says Ohio State Running Back Commit is the “Total Package,” Has “Ridiculous” Ball Skills Out of the Backfield

By Josh Poloha on June 10, 2024 at 8:35 am
Bo Jackson

Bo Jackson’s high school coach says the Ohio State running back commit is the “total package.”

The best in Ohio stay in Ohio. That has always been the saying and holds true for not only the No. 5-ranked in-state player in the 2025 class, but the fifth-ranked running back in the class as well.

On June 4, Jackson became the 12th commitment in the Buckeyes' top-ranked 2025 class (a number that has since grown to 13 with the commitment of No. 2-ranked safety Faheem Delane), adding yet another top talent to OSU's impressive class thus far.

Following Jackson's commitment to Ohio State, we caught up with Villa Angela-St. Joseph head football coach Jeff Rotsky – who has led the Vikings since December 2020 and says he has never coached a player quite like Jackson – to learn more about the type of player and person Jackson is, the impact he could have for the Buckeyes and just how good of a running back he truly is.

While it's undetermined whether or not Jackson will be an early enrollee and arrive in Columbus in January, Rotsky believes the 6-foot, 205-pound running back has all the tools to contribute early and often for the Buckeyes.

The interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity. 

Q: With Georgia reportedly gaining some momentum in the recruitment following his visit to Athens on May 17, Bo committed to Ohio State following his visit to Columbus on May 31. Any idea why he decided to commit to the Buckeyes now?

Jeff Rotsky: I'm not gonna speak for him, but I mean, I just think he had a lot of great comfort at Ohio State. Coach Day has known him for years and the Buckeyes offered him as a freshman. He loved the team (and the brotherhood). Georgia was great and he had a really great time there, but at the end of the day, he sees an opportunity to contribute as a freshman in 2025. It certainly doesn't hurt that his name is Bo Jackson from a marketing standpoint.

Q: What is the best part of Bo's game?

Rotsky: He's a three-down back. He can run the edge, he can run between the tackles and he's fast as hell. But what really sets him apart is he has the best ball skills out of the backfield that I have ever seen, in high school or college. His ball skills out of the backfield are ridiculous. And he's a good route-runner. If you put the ball around him, the ball is going to be caught. He's really, really talented on that front.

Q: Bo is the fifth-ranked running back in the class of 2025. What makes him one of the best running backs in his class?

Rotsky: He's the total package. There are always things he can work on but I just think he's the combination of power and speed and his vision is really, really good – I mean really, really good. That, and when he's running, I bet he's in the mid-4.4s (40-yard dash) right now.

There are just really special things that he can do. Anytime he touches the ball, if you give him a crease, I mean, I think he reached almost 22 miles per hour on one of his runs last season.

Q: Bo was a two-way player throughout much of last season. Will that continue this season or will his focus be solely on offense?

Rotsky: He is not going to play nearly as much defense this year. Even though he's a tremendous defensive player, he will only play in key situations: Fourth quarter, third-down situations and stuff like that. On offense, we're fortunate to have Bo wrapped around three other Power Five kids in our program so we're going to have some tough decisions to make (defensively).

“What really sets him apart is he has the best ball skills out of the backfield that I have ever seen, in high school or college. His ball skills out of the backfield are ridiculous.”– Villa Angela-St. Joseph coach Jeff Rotsky on Bo Jackson

Q: What is your favorite part about coaching Bo?

Rotsky: We have a saying of ‘humility is the backbone of character.’ That if you are really good, you don't need to raise the roof or load up your Instagram (or social media). Bo is one of the most humble, quietest kids you're ever going to meet. And the thing I like best about him is both, he talks the most on Twitter, but he very rarely talks about himself. It's always celebrating his teammates.

On our team, we call it mudita, a Buddhist term that stands for genuine happiness and love for the success of your family, friends and teammates. He's the epitome of that. The way he celebrates his teammates is perfect.

Q: What are your expectations for Bo this season?

Rotsky: We expect our best players to be our hardest workers, so he's working hard and he's a quiet leader, but when he speaks, this team listens, and we don't talk about winning state championships. We talk about living by the process and if we're the best of our process, we have the chance to be the first four-year class. If we live by the process and we get the very best out of our players, then we have a chance.

He's a 325-pound bench guy, a 500-pound squat guy, a 500-plus deadlift guy and a 300-pound clean guy. He's got a lineage as his two brothers were college scholarship players. It's exciting seeing him follow in their footsteps.

Q: What are your expectations for your team this season?

Rotsky: It's year four for me here and we've taken a step each year. We went from 7-2 to 8-3 to 9-4 this past year and 2023 was the furthest the team has gone in the postseason in 20 years. I'm not a prediction guy, but I just know that it's our first four-year class and I think I have set a very, very high stand for their expectations of each other. I would say I'm very cautiously optimistic and excited for what these kids can show because between Bo Jackson, Brian Kovich and Robert Smith, the latter two of which have Division I offers, we have plenty of talent.

And then we've got another 6-foot-5, 235-pound sophomore tight end and defensive end. We've got about 20-25 with college football offers so these kids have worked at it and they care about each other and they put the time in so we can keep with that attitude and really take pride in our team. We got a chance.

Q: Will Bo be ready to contribute immediately as a freshman for Ohio State in 2025?

Rotsky: Besides it just being Ohio State, you'd like to know that you're gonna have an opportunity to compete right away and I think he's gonna have that opportunity. Secondly, I really believe this, that when our players go to college, and I say this as humbly as I possibly can, our kids are often stronger than a lot of guys that are there already. Our strength program, actually a lot of it has come from Coach (Mickey) Marotti, who's brilliant at Ohio State and a mixture from Tim Robertson, a VASJ alum, and the NFL.

So I think that Bo will absolutely be ready because he can run with the best of them. His ball skills are terrific and typically, a kid that has to wait is due to how they're not physically built. But Bo will play this year at 215 pounds and hopefully 225 by his freshman season at Ohio State. So, this kid has all the numbers.

He's big enough to run an opponent over and fast enough to run away from a defender. He's just one of those guys that can make that one cut and he's gone. He sees that crease better than most that I've ever seen. He will be very, very prepared.

Q: What are your expectations for Bo during his Ohio State career?

Rotsky: If Bo can go to Ohio State and do what I think he's gonna be able to, Bo's the type of kid that absolutely has an opportunity to play on Sundays, God willing, if he stays healthy. I think he's just talented and he stays hungry, and that's a good combination to have.

If you look at Ohio State's skill players, especially those who contribute at a young age, Bo has a chance to do that and be the next great one. It's tough to make a comparison, but one running back I would say Bo reminds me of is Christian McCaffrey. He never has to come off the field. Bo's a great outside zone runner and he can also run between the tackles. Plus, his ball skills are absolutely ridiculous.

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