At the Under Armour Columbus camp on Sunday, 2022 Omaha (Neb.) Burke linebacker Devon Jackson had an opportunity that he'd long been awaiting for.
Like many others, Jackson's 2020 season was canceled due to Covid, so the Notre Dame target hadn't been on the field much since his sophomore season. That changed over the weekend when the 6-2, 200-pounder showcased his speed and agility against other top prospects from across the Midwest. Jackson stood out during one-on-one competition, but ultimately fell just short of receiving an invite to the UA All-American game.
For much of the camp, Jackson was asked to cover and play in space, which could have been seen as a bit of an adjustment for a player who primarily rushed from the edge with his high school program. Instead, Jackson touched on how he strives to be a complete player at the second level.
“I feel like I play defense,” Jackson told Irish Breakdown. “I don't consider myself as just an edge rusher, but for me being as fast as I am, I ran the 100 [meter dash] two weeks ago and they clocked me at a 10.5 [seconds], so I feel like I'm the fastest linebacker here -- without question. For someone that fast, you should be able to run in space.”
On that note, Jackson has schools across the country interested because of his athletic ability and on-field acumen. In addition to Notre Dame, Jackson holds offers from the likes of LSU, Miami, Auburn, Oklahoma, Michigan and Texas A&M, so he's one of the more coveted linebackers in the nation.
“Notre Dame sees me as a Rover because of how fast I am and I have a lengthier build,” Jackson said. “Oklahoma sees me as a linebacker, the Mike position, because I am 6-2, 200 [pounds]. They want their edge guys 6-4, 240 or 250, which I get if it's the defense that you run.”
From a position standpoint, Jackson mentioned that he does not have a preference just yet but did note that he expects to compete at whichever position he's lined up at. And if that position ends up being a Rover at Notre Dame, Jackson also feels that his speed could be a good fit for the defense that Marcus Freeman, his primary recruiter, wants to run.
“The degree at Notre Dame is like nothing else,” Jackson detailed. “Notre Dame is one of the few schools in the country that can give you both. You can get a degree that's one of the best and you're going to the [College Football] Playoffs pretty much year in and year out, so [Freeman] says that to me a lot. He wants to get them over that hump because last year they came up short against obviously a great Alabama team. He wants to build a defense where they can lock up a Devonte Smith. They have a linebacker that can run with a Devante Smith.”
From a recruiting standpoint, Jackson is still a bit away from making his decision. First, the Notre Dame target wants to take his official visits to finally have an in-person experience on the campuses he's being recruited to, and he's beginning to compile the schedule to do so. Arizona State is going to receive Jackson's first official visit on June 5, then he's planning on visiting Oklahoma and Notre Dame in successive weeks after that.
These trips will be pivotal in showing the four-star prospect what his future could look like which each respective school, and Notre Dame is already slated to have a deep list of prospects on campus, so the first weekend of June is shaping up to be an important stretch for the Fighting Irish.
"I was looking forward to watching Jackson get work at linebacker, but I still have questions about him based on what we saw today. Jackson is a defensive end in high school, but he’s barely over 6-1 and not much over 200 pounds, and he doesn’t have the kind of frame that will allow him to carry 230+ pounds, or at least it will be a challenge.
"At the UA camp we got to see him working at linebacker. Two things were obvious, one is he has elite speed and athleticism, two is that he’s more of an athlete right now than he is a football player, at least at linebacker. Jackson’s footwork and feel for the game were subpar, but his elite speed allowed him to still make plays.
"An example is a pass break up he had on a deep ball that had a bunch of analysts and coaches for UA fired up. Jackson was standing flat footed when the back got near him and then tried to grab the back as he ran by. Jackson was initially beat by 4-5 yards on the play, but his elite speed allowed him to recover and break up the pass. The ball was a bit late, and he won’t be able to so easily recover against better competition.
"I’ve felt all along he’s a risky prospect, one that possesses tremendous athleticism, but also one that comes with a lot of risk due to not knowing just how good he’ll be playing off the ball."
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