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Ja’Quinden Jackson brings elite athleticism, untapped upside to Texas’ 2020 class

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At the end of the day, Jackson is simply someone you want on your side.

4-star ATH Ja’Quinden Jackson
Twitter: @JaayUpNext_

After more than two months without movement, the Texas Longhorns have landed their highest rated prospect this cycle, adding a special talent on Monday evening in the form of Duncanville quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson.

With the addition of one of the nation’s very best athletes, the Longhorns are possibly acquiring the kind of dynamic playmaker that the program hasn’t had at the quarterback position in quite some time.

Since Jackson exploded onto the scene and proved his dominance on the high school level, questions have been in the air about whether he’d continue to be the dual-threat signal caller, or could he find a spot somewhere in an offense as a skill position, or if he’s a better fit on the defensive side of ball at the next level. Regardless of what position Jackson ends up playing or how the Horns decide to use him, the DFW standout will be bringing a great deal of versatility to Austin.

At 6’2, with a 219-pound frame, Jackson is already compact with an imposing stature that fits the mold of many different positions on the football field. You combine his salient size and sensational athleticism together and you can easily come up with at least seven different spots on the field where Jackson could be plugged in and potentially become a household name in the Big 12.

But, of course, the question is whether or not Jackson will remain at quarterback once his days at Duncanville are done. To that end, there’s certainly some evidence to support Jackson’s future behind center.

Tom Herman and his staff recruited Jackson as a quarterback and he’s expressed that’s what he wants to continue to play at the next level. Jackson is fully capable of doing so, as long as he continues to make it a priority to grow and develop as a quarterback and the offensive side of the Longhorns staff makes sure that he advances his mechanics and overall knowledge at the position. The arm strength, plus the discipline to keep his eyes downfield and having the ability to improvise in the pocket when pressure arrives, makes Jackson well suited to be a valuable option behind the center when it’s his time to touch the field. Jackson has a relaxed and smooth throwing motion and puts touch on short-to-intermediate passes.

You don’t see a ton of unnecessary movement from Jackson when he’s in the process of throwing the ball, but there are things he still needs to clean up technique-wise, but he’s a lot more fine-tuned than what many have given him credit for up to this point. Jackson has also shown that he has the gutsiness to put it all on the line and make the necessary plays with his arm or legs to put his team in position to be victorious. From the quarterback position, you want to have someone that has the moxie and tough backbone Jackson has in crunch-time situations.

The Longhorns’ latest verbal commit was largely why Duncanville amassed a 14-1 record last season and were seconds away from being crowned state champions.

Throughout his junior season, Jackson completed 63 percent of his passes and logged 1,580 yards and 15 touchdowns with just three interceptions. I think it’s safe to say this could be just the beginning for Jackson as a gunslinger.

Now Jackson’s greatest aspect of his game is when he tucks the ball away and takes off on defenders; that’s a reason why you see so many comparisons of whom he resembles the most or the multitude of positions he’s slated to flourish in at the next level. As most would agree, Jackson is at his best when he escapes from the pocket. The four-star prospect officially turns into a running back with tremendous vision, smooth change of direction, and a compelling burst that allows him to run past arm tackles swiftly and get to the last line of defense in a hurry showing off his 4.61 40-yard dash speed. Jackson brings that physical downhill running and punishing style to defenders at the point of contact, which helped him account for 1,497 yards on 10.1 yards per attempt and 23 rushing touchdowns.

Viewing how Jackson doesn’t shy away from contact with his prestige physique is why many project him being a linebacker or safety when it’s all said and done. Jackson’s speed and gritty style of play would definitely come in handy for the Longhorns defense, but all in all, Jackson could prove to be a fit as a quarterback in Tim Beck’s offense.

The dual-threat traits Jackson is equipped with are quite similar to current quarterbacks on the roster: Sam Ehlinger’s bruising style, Casey Thompson’s assertiveness in making the right play, and Roschon Johnson’s shiftiness. But former Longhorns quarterback-turned-wide-receiver, Jerrod Heard, is the player Jackson is comparable to the most as a prospect heading to Austin.

That same dynamism, explosiveness, breakaway ability, savviness, and overall strength as a passer, and those very same questions that came about him being a quarterback at the next level are nearly identical to what Heard encountered coming throughout the 2014 cycle and the remainder of his career. While Jackson and Heard ran two different offenses in high school and Jackson has the edge on Heard in the weight department, both of their skill sets match up well and both received supreme notoriety as top recruits. Jackson is currently the No. 48 prospect in the nation, while Heard was ranked the No. 67 overall prospect for his class, according to the 247Sports Composite. Heard was expected to be the next big thing at quarterback for the Horns, as he was recruited by Mack Brown at first, went through the Charlie Strong era, and caught the front end of the Herman regime. The former Longhorn had moments when he shined behind center, most notably torching Cal with 527 total yards, but ultimately Heard struggled to play the quarterback position at a consistently high level before losing his starting role and never really receiving an opportunity to develop at the position he was so highly rated at coming out of Denton Guyer.

For Jackson, Texas boasts much deeper quarterback room with more raw talent on hand, but also an overall greater situation than what Heard had, as Jackson almost certainly won’t be forced into the fire as a true freshman. Jackson will have a leader in Sam Ehlinger to look up to and learn from, and most of all he’ll have a staff that looks to be set in stone for a while now, which is exceptionally important.

With Jackson now committed, Texas has two more potential replacements for Ehlinger coming in with Lake Travis standout Hudson Card being the first member of #cloUT2020. Should Ehlinger return for his senior season, as expected, the Longhorns will obviously have their starter set in stone, but Thompson and the true freshman Johnson will looking to carve their roles in the quarterback room before Jackson and Card arrive. It’s safe to say that Jackson will have his work cut out for him, but he has the intangibles and raw athletic ability to climb the depth chart faster than anybody at the position.

If Jackson ultimately moves away from the quarterback position, he’ll probably be best suited for the defensive side of the ball competing at outside linebacker and being brought in on offense for specialized packages as a wildcat quarterback.

At the end of the day, Jackson is simply someone you want on your side.