It’s less than four months until the 2016 season begins and less than nine months until the recruiting class of 2017 can sign their National Letters of Intent. With fierce recruiting battles underway for the top recruits in the country, it’s a good time to get to know the players who appear poised to become college football stars in the near future. So far, we’ve analyzed Najee Harris, Dylan Moses, DeAngelo Gibbs, Devon Hunter, Foster Sarrell and Tedarrell Slaton, the top-rated recruits in the class of 2017, according to Scout.com. This week, it’s Austin Jackson, the No. 7 player in the class.
Name: Austin Jackson
Rank: No. 7 overall, No. 2 offensive guard
Height/Weight: 6’5”/255 lbs
High School: North Canyon (Ariz.) High
Commitment status: Uncommitted
Scouting evaluation (from Scout.com)
Has the frame and athletic ability to be an elite level prospect. Jackson has excellent feet, likely from his basketball background. Watch him in pass pro, he is able to move his feet and change direction with ease. He can reach, pull and get to the second level. Usually with young, athletic tackles, you won't see aggression. Jackson has it. He finishes guys. Has big time ability.
Arizona and Arizona State have their hands full trying to keep the Grand Canyon State’s top prospect from getting away. It’s a multi-front battle, as Jackson has no shortage of offers and family ties to USC. His grandfather won national titles with the Trojans in the 1970s.
Then there are the programs outside of Pac-12 country who are heavily pursuing Jackson, including Texas A&M, Michigan and Alabama. The Aggies have had some recent success poaching top talent out of Arizona, including five-stars Christian Kirk in the class of 2015 and Kyle Allen in ’14.
Still, Arizona got Jackson to drive the 90 miles from Phoenix to Tucson to check out the Wildcats’ Junior Day, potentially boosting hopes for Rich Rodriguez’s program. And Arizona State is riding a wave of momentum after four-star quarterback Ryan Kelley decommitted from Oregon before pledging to the Sun Devils earlier this month.
Jackson is staying tight-lipped about any favorites while keeping plenty busy on and off the field. The versatile athlete went straight from football season into basketball season before joining the track and field team in the spring and wrapping up the year with off-season football workouts. He’s hoping to end his high school football career on a high note after North Canyon went 1–19 over the past two seasons. Jackson still made azcentrals’s All-Arizona team despite North Canyon’s struggles and plans to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January.
How he fits
It’s too early to project where Jackson might end up, but what he could bring to any program is clear. His athleticism and ability to drive defenders back will be an asset no matter where he signs. With more time to hone his technique and add some mass to his frame in a college weight room, Jackson is a sure-fire contributor on the line. If he opts to stay in-state, he’d become the highest ranked recruit to play for Arizona or Arizona State since Scout.com began ranking recruits in 2002.