Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Size, strength, desire make Jackson hard to block
El Dorado's Bijhon Jackson stops Camden Fairview's DJ Franklin in the backfield in Camden.
Third in a series profiling newcomers to the Arkansas football team
FAYETTEVILLE -- Bijhon Jackson got his fancy first name from a French perfume, but there's hardly anything delicate about his football style.
at a glance
HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-2, 340
POSITION Defensive tackle
HOMETOWN El Dorado
NOTEWORTHY Ranked as the No. 1 prospect in Arkansas by ESPN and 247Sports. Helped lead El Dorado High School to Class 6A state championships in 2011 and 2013. State record holder with 360 pound power clean. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette All-Arkansas first team. Ranked No. 4 defensive tackle in the country by Scout.com, No. 5 by 247Sports Composite and No. 6 by ESPN. Played in the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl on the winning West team. Two-time academic all-conference pick. Plans to major in math. Posted 175 career tackles. Parents are Anthony and Michelle Jackson. Chose Arkansas over Alabama and Ole Miss.
Jackson, a 6-2, 340-pound defensive tackle, holds a state record with a 360-pound power clean, two Class 6A state titles with the El Dorado Wildcats and a reputation for shedding and shredding blockers.
"I used to tell guys he messes up practice because you see your guard go airborne when the ball is snapped a lot of times," El Dorado Coach Scott Reed said. "It was hard for us to practice against him."
Jackson, who also sports a 425-pound bench press, has been just as disruptive for opposing offenses.
"He's very, very big, he's very powerful, but he's also very fast, very sudden," said Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema, who extended his first offer of the 2014 class to Jackson.
Bielema seemed to take great joy in commenting on Jackson's highlight tape on National Signing Day.
"Here he is as a 3-technique, being able to jack that guy [blocker] up, wrap up the running back and again introducing him to that landing technique," he said.
Jackson, who played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, jumped at the offer from the Razorbacks, which came during Bielema's first month on the job, and never wavered from his home-state school despite shooting up in the national position rankings and drawing heavy interest and offers from virtually all the other SEC schools.
"It wasn't a hard decision for me," Jackson said. "Me and my family, we've always been Hog fans."
Jackson, at 6-2, 320, was an enforcer by the time he was a sophomore starter at El Dorado, but he wasn't fully aware of how far his talent could take him.
"Until I got the offer from Arkansas, I didn't think I was big enough to play college football," he said. "After I got the offer, it just gave me motivation to work harder and get ready."
As excited as Jackson has been about joining the Razorbacks, his parents Anthony and Michelle and his siblings are equally eager.
"They're real excited, especially my daddy," Jackson said. "He's ecstatic about it."
Arkansas had an exodus at the defensive tackle spots with the losses of Byran Jones and Robert Thomas, creating an opening for early playing time for Jackson, but the humble newcomer isn't making predictions about playing time in 2014.
"I'm just working to get a spot," Jackson said. "Hopefully I'll be starting. I don't know right now. We haven't even started practicing yet. I'll give it everything I've got to get a spot."
Reed said Jackson has stayed grounded throughout his rise in the recruiting rankings. He recalled a former NFL player at a camp in Dallas telling Jackson that if he kept working the way he had, he would eventually make a lot of money playing football.
"A lot of kids his age, you worry about them handling something like that," Reed said. "With Bijhon, I think it just made him work more.
"He handled all the notoriety, the accolades he got, he handled them the way you'd like someone to do. It didn't change him at all, as far as his work ethic or the way he played."
Reed said Jackson's attitude as a newcomer to college football is the right approach.
"He understands that he's going in as a college freshman and he has a lot to learn and that he's basically starting over," Reed said. "No matter how high he was ranked or what people thought of him or who recruited him. ... He's very grounded. I think his parents did a tremendous job of raising him with the values he has and the way he handles himself."
Asked to name his best assets, Jackson didn't hone in on his physical skills.
"I think I just have a good attitude about everything," he said. "I don't really have any bad days. I'm a good people person.
"I'm real friendly to my teammates and everything. I'm a team player. I take coaching. I don't have any problem listening to what the coaches have to tell me. I'll just do whatever it takes to win."
Reed said Jackson's work ethic put him in high standing among his teammates, noting Jackson never missed a day of practice or a game, and that he didn't rest on his accomplishments after two good high school seasons.
"This past year, he got really serious about it," Reed said. "It became important for him to play every down. ... He went to some camps where he was going against kids who were going to Alabama or Auburn or Texas, where he went one on one against them, and he did real well."
Jackson is taking an introduction to criminology class during the first session of summer school at Arkansas and is going through workouts with his new teammates.
He said he plans to drop 15 to 20 pounds from his current weight of 340 pounds in time for Arkansas' Aug. 30 season-opener at Auburn.
"I think I'll probably end up losing a bit after experiencing these first two days of workouts," Jackson said with a grin last week. "I think I'd be at my most athletic at 320."
Jackson said he hopes to help stir a winning attitude in the Arkansas locker room.
"I think most of the players we have now have a winning attitude," he said. "I'm feeling real good about the season. I'm not a loser. I've been winning state championship for years now. I'm not planning on losing anything anytime soon."
Sports on 06/22/2014