We continue the Better Know a Buckeye series with its 15th installment in 2018. Here, we profile Antwuan Jackson, a defensive tackle originally from Ellenwood, GA.
- Size: 6-2/305
- Position: DT
- Hometown: Ellenwood, GA
- School: Blinn College
- 247 Composite: ★★★★
- National Ranking (JUCO): 1
- Position Ranking (JUCO): 1 (DT)
- State Ranking (JUCO): 1 (TX)
Jackson's arrival on campus is effectively a mulligan. Ohio State recruited Jackson hard when he was a senior in high school and Jackson had a hard time turning the Buckeyes down. He signed with Auburn but discerned quickly into his first year that he wanted to be somewhere else. He wanted to come to Ohio State. Auburn blocked a direct transfer, which resulted in Jackson leaving Auburn for Blinn College. Jackson committed to Ohio State four months after he left Auburn and enrolled in January.
I retell an abbreviated version of this recruitment below. Thereafter, I provide a scouting report of a four-star defensive tackle who retained most of his original luster coming from high school. I close noting that Jackson already redshirted his first year at Auburn and that he has three years of eligibility in Columbus. I offer some senior-year highlight film for the reader to watch at the end of the feature.
Jackson's road to Ohio State is both long and ultimately well-recited. He was a marquee defensive tackle prospect in the 2016 recruiting class and signed with Auburn before electing to transfer from the program. However, Auburn placed several restrictions on potential destinations, prompting Jackson to leave for a junior college for a year.
More Antwuan Jackson at 11W
Ohio State was part of a long list of suitors for Jackson when he was coming from high school in Georgia. The in-state Bulldogs may have been the early leaders for Jackson's commitment but this 1) changed when defensive line coach Rodney Garner left Georgia for Auburn in 2013 and 2) ended when Georgia fired Mark Richt. Auburn emerged as the new front-runner for Jackson. Ohio State put in a long and bitter fight on the recruiting trail before Jackson signed with Auburn and enrolled in January 2016.
Jackson quickly grew dissatisfied with this decision. He committed to Auburn because he said he liked the people there and was comfortable with the area, but this comfort with the people and the vicinity changed after enrollment. Jackson redshirted his first year but decided to leave the program in May of last year.
Auburn claimed it wished him "nothing but the best", though "nothing but the best" came with some restrictions. Jackson was party to a bitter battle over potential landing spots as Jackson claimed Auburn blocked him from an immediate transfer to any SEC program (which is par for the course on these matters), Clemson (which played Auburn in 2017), and... Ohio State. Auburn is not on Ohio State's schedule and hasn't been since the 1990 Hall of Fame Bowl. However, Auburn blocked his transfer there anyway.
This was disappointing for Jackson because his decision to leave Auburn came with an epiphany that he wanted to go to Ohio State. He signed with Auburn but lamented that he passed up an opportunity to play for Larry Johnson.
I think leaving Auburn, I was just doing it for me and my family... And it really was because coach Johnson, we just have this great connection. He inspired me to be great as soon as I get here.
I mean when I committed to Auburn, I just heard rumors that after I committed there, he just walked around the facility here and wasn't talking to nobody; moping around and stuff. So when I was at Auburn, I just felt like I needed to be here (Ohio State). I thought about it right when I committed there.
So, when I was thinking about transferring, (Johnson) was the No. 1 person on my mind.
Auburn blocked the opportunity to immediately transfer to Ohio State, which necessitated Jackson enrolling in a community college. He chose Blinn College in Texas, which has a long list of prominent alumni like Cam Newton (Auburn), Dede Westbrook (Oklahoma), and, most recently, Ohio State's Kendall Sheffield.
Jackson emerged pretty quickly as the No. 1 JUCO player in the country during the 2018 recruiting class. He fielded immediate attention from Alabama and Ohio State, which constituted the set of schools Jackson would ultimately consider before he made his decision. Jackson ultimately made his decision in early September.
On Sept. 17, 2017, Antwuan Jackson committed to Ohio State as the 15th member of what would become its full 2018 recruiting class. He had finally chosen Ohio State over multiple competing offers from high school and junior college. This go-around, Jackson chose Ohio State over competing offers from Alabama, LSU, and South Carolina.
— Antwuan Jackson (@Hercules__52) September 12, 2017
His decision was effectively final, though there was some small concern that Alabama was going to make a run on him even after his commitment to Ohio State. Alabama hosted Jackson for an official visit, but Jackson's commitment never wavered.
— Antwuan Jackson (@Hercules__52) November 16, 2017
Jackson signed with Ohio State during the early signing period and enrolled in January.
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) December 20, 2017
WHERE HE EXCELS
Antwuan Jackson is an important part of what has to be, on paper, Urban Meyer's best haul at defensive tackle since he's been at Ohio State. Taron Vincent is a five-star and Tommy Togiai, already enrolled, is turning heads in the spring. Jackson is a former Army All-American, a top ten defensive tackle prospect in high school, and the No. 1 JUCO prospect in America. Jackson brings a unique skill set and experience that will allow him some separation from Togiai and Vincent.
Scouts rave about his first step. You'll see it in the senior-year film I attach at the end of this feature. It's among the fastest I've seen for a defensive tackle coming into the program. He combines it with an excellent first punch, which makes him almost unblockable in some of the film you'll see. His head coach at Blinn called him "so dang explosive."
Further, Jackson's lateral movement is excellent and elite even as far as defensive tackles go. Add in the fact he's a few years more mature than the typical four-star defensive tackle and Jackson is poised to make an immediate contribution to the defense.
MUST WORK ON
There is a caveat that is worth repeating about JUCO prospects, certainly players who signed with elite programs and then transferred out. They won't be the same caliber prospect they were in high school. This was true of Kendall Sheffield last year and it's true for Antwuan Jackson this year. Players like Cam Newton are exceptions on this front and, even then, Newton had major behavioral problems that forced his exit from Florida and ultimately resulted in him losing an important year of development.
In Jackson's case, you can bemoan he lost a year or so of development and I think it would be fair. The ceiling is still high: first-round draft pick "high." However, he's a little further behind where he could've been had he stuck with Auburn even if Ohio State should be grateful he left.
This manifests in one recurring comment I've read from scouts, and including his former position coach at Auburn. Jackson has all the tools; he just doesn't reliably use them. It manifests the most in concerns about his hands. His first punch is incredible, when he lands it. When he doesn't, he leaves his chest exposed to a blocker.
Jackson redshirted in 2016 so he can't this year. He will have three years of eligibility in Columbus.
Here are senior-year highlights of Antwuan Jackson.