Heading into week five of the 2022 season, the University of Utah football team looks slightly different than it did a month ago. While the Utes have sustained several unfortunate season-ending injuries and will be without guys like Chris Curry and Brant Kuithe, Utah is calling on their depth to step up, which includes new running back Ja'Quinden Jackson.
Despite transferring to the U as a quarterback and participating in a closely contested battle for the backup quarterback position, Jackson is now a running back until further notice. After losing Curry to a season-ending injury during the matchup with San Diego State, the Utes were in need and Jackson answered the call.
In addition to filling in for Curry, Jackson also followed in the footsteps of his dear friend Ty Jordan, who tragically passed away almost two years ago. Undoubtedly making Jordan and the rest of his teammates proud, Jackson was magnificent in his first appearance at the position, recording 31 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
"He only had two and a half days of practice last week, and ended up giving us some quality carries and scored a touchdown. We expect him to take another step forward this week, and as the weeks progress just continue to get better and better," Kyle Whittingham said.
To step in with only a few days of practice and produce the numbers he did is very impressive. While he did play running back in high school, and was able to draw on that experience against the Sun Devils, his production says a lot about his potential and the type of player he is.
"If he didn't have the fairly extensive running back background, that would be a different story. But he has a lot of experience as a running back. It's been a few years, but he's had that experience at the position and the workload as a full-time starter at that position. I don't know if it's like riding a bike, but certainly he'll draw on that. Giving him a full week of prep [this week] will be much more conducive to his success than throwing him in midweek last week," Whittingham explained.
Looking ahead, Jackson will continue to fulfill the role through the end of the season and its only up from here. As he settles into the position and gets additional reps, Jackson's production is only going to improve and Utah's running back group will only become more deadly.
Mostly importantly though, Jackson is happy again. After losing several of his closest friends and being relegated to QB3 before the season, Jackson is happy to be on the field and contributing however he can.
"I found my joy again," Jackson said. "I'm just gonna leave it at that. I found my joy again. I actually had fun just being out there playing again, so yeah, I found my joy again. I'm living it."
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