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While Cameron Rising will continue to command the offense from under center for the 2022 season, the QB2 battle was one of the most interesting and enticing headlines from spring camp. Even though Head Coach Kyle Whittingham was unable to name a clear backup following the spring game, as the two [Bryson Barnes and Ja'Quinden Jackson] nearly matched each other stat for stat, Ja'Quinden Jackson's progress and glow-up was one of the most notable from camp.

Despite the overall success of the team, 2021 was a really tough year for the freshman-transfer from Texas. Jackson was tasked with grieving and overcoming the death of both Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe, two of his closest friends. This created a difficult headspace and Jackson had a tough time focusing on his game with a situation that was so much bigger than football.

“It was bumpy because I am new to the program,” Jackson said. “I was still learning the offense and then stuff went on, you know. The death of A-Lowe, like just kinda shut me out of football, like I just shut down. So that’s really how that went.” 

After facing an unimaginable trial, Jackson worked his way back to a good mental space and absolutely balled out during spring camp. Primarily focusing on his passing abilities, Jackson’s confidence is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was last year which has translated to crisp throws, better ball placement and chances he never would’ve taken before.

“It's been good,” Jackson said. “I’ve made progress. I've heard some good things around the facility so I think I’m making progress but we’re not done yet. [I’ve improved my] throwing really. Just my technique, accuracy, I’m still working on it but that’s the main thing i’ve been focusing on during spring.”

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As demonstrated in the spring game, Jackson is a completely different player than what we saw last year. Finishing 11-17 for 138 yards and two touchdowns, Jackson's passes were confident, crisp and on target all game, proving that he can do more than just run the football. 

So while Barnes may have had slightly better numbers, Jacksons progress and potential upside have him right back in the conversation for QB2. Sure, Barnes is an incredible quarterback, and what he did in the Rose Bowl might go down as one of the most legendary single-game performances in the history of the program, but the improvement from Jackson was almost a night and day difference from last season. If he can continue developing his passing game, he will be a deadly dual-threat and could have a bright future once Rising departs for the league.

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