In his first week of practices as an Ohio State football player, Jonah Jackson has been put to the test right away.
From the opening minutes of Ohio State’s opening practice last Friday, Jackson was running with the first-team offensive line. The graduate transfer from Rutgers was brought in to be the Buckeyes’ starting left guard this year, so Ohio State hasn’t wasted any time throwing him into the fire during its first week of preseason camp, his first practices as a Buckeye after arriving this summer.
So far, the Buckeyes are liking what they’ve seen from the fifth-year senior guard from Media, Pennsylvania.
“He’s had a seamless transition,” Ohio State right guard Wyatt Davis said Thursday when asked about Jackson. “You would have thought that he would have been here all four years the way he came in. He had really minimal questions about stuff, and as soon as we got on the field, you could see why he was the top grad transfer coming out.”
In his first interview session with the media since his arrival at Ohio State on Thursday, Jackson said his acclimation to Ohio State is “going really well.” He came from a program at Rutgers, led by former Buckeyes assistant coach Chris Ash, that is structured similarly to Ohio State’s football program in many ways, which made it easier for Jackson to fit in quickly in Columbus.
“That was definitely something that played a big factor in my decision process,” Jackson said regarding his decision to transfer to Ohio State. “How they structure everything sort of similar to Rutgers whether it’s weight room, academics, and then the football aspect and how Coach (Greg Studrawa's) philosophies were similar to my past coaches.”
Jackson was a team captain and the starting right guard for Rutgers last season, and he previously started five games at center for the Scarlet Knights in 2017. After four years in Piscataway during which the Scarlet Knights won just 11 games, however, Jackson decided he would play his final season of college football elsewhere after graduating from Rutgers this spring.
“I gave everything to the university and that will forever be my alma mater. That’s a place I’ll consider home,” Jackson said of his decision to leave Rutgers. “But I wanted to see what else was out there.”
While Jackson was not a highly touted recruit out of high school – Rutgers was his only Power 5 offer – he was coveted by many of the nation’s top college football programs when he entered the transfer portal in January. Jackson already had a list of schools where he wanted to play in mind, though, so he only seriously considered two programs: Ohio State and Oklahoma.
“It was just like a hail storm at me,” said Jackson, who said he recently checked his phone and realized he still had 308 unread text messages from this offseason. “I was like, I know where I want to go, I know the schools that get to visit and get it done, and it was kind of a headache, the amount of people that were just blowing up your phone at times.”
Jackson wanted to have the opportunity to compete for a championship in his final season of college football, and he decided Ohio State was the best place for him to get that opportunity. He wasn’t promised a starting job when he committed to the Buckeyes, but was told that he would likely slot in at left guard, where Gavin Cupp took most of the first-team repetitions this spring.
On an offensive line that has only one returning starter in left tackle Thayer Munford, Jackson’s experience from starting elsewhere in the Big Ten has made him a valuable addition up front.
“He plays like a veteran,” said Ohio State center Josh Myers. “He sees things. When you’re playing with a young guy who hasn’t had the experience or maybe doesn’t have the offense down that great, they’ll miss little things. And that’s what gets you beat is the little things. And Jonah doesn’t miss those, and that’s kind of how you can tell that he’s played a lot.”
Jackson said he believes he and Ohio State’s other offensive linemen are “gelling really well.”
“Very confident in our ability to play and being able to put out the best performance on a Saturday,” Jackson said.
Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said Jackson, who shed his black stripe after just four practices as a Buckeye, has done a great job leading by example in his first week of practice.
“You talk about a guy that provides leadership without saying a word,” Studrawa said of Jackson. “He is professional. He does his job, he goes hard every play he’s in there and then goes back in and does it again.”
“He’s had a seamless transition. You would have thought that he would have been here all four years the way he came in.”– Wyatt Davis on Jonah Jackson
Jackson didn’t care for the insinuation, though, that he’s been quiet in practice.
“If you guys think I’m quiet, I’m definitely gonna amp it up then now, because I didn’t think I was too quiet,” Jackson said with a laugh.
Several of Jackson’s former Rutgers teammates described Jackson as a trash talker and a joker during last month’s Big Ten Media Days, and he said that is a part of who he is. He also makes sure, though, that he’s focused on getting his job done when he’s in a game or practice.
“When we’re on the field, we’re gonna handle our business,” Jackson said. “And then when we’re off, we’re gonna have a good time, laugh and joke around.”
After making his decision to leave Rutgers after last season, Jackson could have opted to take his chances on playing in the NFL, and playing at Ohio State this year should improve his chances of being noticed by NFL scouts entering next year’s draft. For the time being, though, Jackson is focused solely on trying to have the best season possible as a Buckeye.
“If that happens, it happens, God willing,” Jackson said. “But if it doesn’t, I’m ready to play football for the Ohio State Buckeyes. I’m not worried about the NFL right now.”