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02-01-2011, 07:18 AM #31Senior Member
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you guys reckon he'll be a FS, SS or CB?
Blanton did well at Nickel maybe he'll take his spot
02-01-2011, 08:07 AM #32Senior Member
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02-01-2011, 08:49 AM #33Senior Member
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- Shrewsbury, PA
great move by the coaches IMO. He has a defensive mentality on ST coverage units. I think he'll be a nice fit.
02-01-2011, 08:52 AM #34Community Moderator
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- St. Johnsbury Vt.
With the loss of Okotcha it had to be done. I think he'll fit in fine coming of the bench to add depth in the secondary
IRISH GUARD-GH Division
02-01-2011, 04:08 PM #35athanjohnGuest
I found this and maybe it is a little telling. This might have been something he wanted to do. I am beginning to wonder how reactionary this is.
When he first played ST they wrote this article and there is a great quote from Bennett
I really didn't even play much defense at our high school," Jackson said. "Our coach didn't really believe in two-way players, but I like this role. I don't get too many chances to hit someone on the football field, so when I get the chance, I might as well use it."
I think He may just have that hit first mentality. I like it.
08-11-2011, 01:52 PM #36Moderator
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For the second year in a row, sophomore Bennett Jackson is making a name for himself at Notre Dame. A year ago it was as a speedy wide receiver, as Jackson wowed coaches and teammates alike with his ability to get downfield. Jackson was one of the surprise players from the Class of 2010, and his future at Notre Dame appeared to be bright on the offensive side of the football.
When the season arrived, Jackson was not able to get on the field much as a wide receiver. He did, however, still make an impact for the Irish. Jackson was able to use his speed and toughness to make a significant impact on special teams. During his freshman season, Jackson emerged as one of Notre Dame’s best players on coverage, making his presence felt in the very first game of his career.
Notre Dame got off to a rough start a year ago, losing three straight September games to begin the season with a 1-3 record. The Irish were also scuffling in the kick return game, with the Notre Dame returners consistently failing to make plays and failing to give the offense good field position.
Special teams coordinator Mike Elston decided to give Jackson a chance to use his speed as a returner, and much like he did in the Purdue game in coverage, Jackson made his presence felt immediately. He took the first kick he saw and returned it 43 yards, giving the Notre Dame offense the football at midfield. Four plays later, quarterback Dayne Crist scored from seven yards out and the rout was on.
Jackson was the lead return man for the Irish the remainder of the season. As he heads into his sophomore campaign, Jackson hopes to be able to continue in his role as a return man, but this time with even greater success.
“I’m hoping I do have the opportunity,” Jackson said of his desire to continue to return kicks. “I prided myself on kick returns and felt like that was something I could really excel in, and I’m hoping to get the opportunity to do it again this year.”
The 6-foot-0 sophomore will have a battle on his hands, and the Irish appear to be deeper and potentially more explosive in the return game. Classmate Austin Collinsworth will be in the mix, as will a pair of athletic and speedy freshmen in George Atkinson and DaVaris Daniels. The competition will be fierce, but the speedy Jackson is confident he will be able to get the job done this fall.
While he is certain to find a home on special teams, as both a coverage man and potentially as a returner, Jackson’s other role is certainly going to be different this season. A year ago Jackson was trying to make a name for himself as a wide receiver. Now, the New Jersey native is trying to make a dent in the cornerback rotation.
Jackson was moved to cornerback during the spring practice period, and he showed flashes of being a potential standout at the position. The issue for Jackson during the spring was those moments of excellence were surrounded by mistakes that are typical of a player learning a brand new position. This fall, he hopes to limit those mistakes and make a name for himself on defense.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly sees Jackson’s talent, but also recognizes his need to continue to improve his consistency at the position.
“Bennett has flashes of greatness, but unfortunately at the wrong position to have flashes,” Kelly said of his sophomore cornerback. “You can’t have a good series and then a bad series.”
Limiting the mental and technique mistakes is something Jackson must continue to improve upon, as the Irish head man alluded to. But Jackson is steadily improving as a cornerback, due in large part to a growing comfort level at the position and with the defense.
“I feel a lot more confident in the myself,” Jackson said. “A lot more comfortable with my steps, with being on the field, everything. I just feel a lot more comfortable and confident in myself.”
As his head coach mentioned, Jackson must eliminate the mental and technical mistakes that could result in a big play for the opposition. Cornerback is a position where one mistake can often directly lead to points for an opponent. Jackson knows there is still plenty of work to be done, but he is confident that he is making good progress.
“I minimized a lot of my flaws that I was doing in the spring tremendously,” Jackson said with confidence. “Personally, I feel like I improved a lot since the spring, but I also feel like I definitely need to keep improving each day and prove a lot more.”
No matter how much Jackson improves, he says he will never stop working hard to get even better.
“I feel like there’s always room for improvement,” said the sophomore. “There’s always a guy next to you competing.”
His improvement allows the sophomore cornerback to better utilize the speed and toughness that first led the Irish coaches to consider moving him to the defensive side of the ball. Playing cornerback at Notre Dame requires instincts and quick thinking, and the better Jackson is able to play that way the faster and more physical he will be able to get things done.
“It’s kind of think first, hit second,” Jackson said of the mentality it takes to play cornerback at Notre Dame. “Especially when you’re in your drop zones, if you’re up close in Cover 2 or something, definitely.”
The physical part of the game is one of the biggest reasons Jackson was so supportive of the move to cornerback. He also believes the move gives him an opportunity to maximize his talents as a football player.
“I love the physical part,” Jackson said, with a smile finally starting to creep onto his face. “I like the switch, I think the switch was great for me. I feel like I finally get a chance to compete with a lot of the top guys on the team, and not get beat. I have a fair chance.”
One of the reasons Jackson likes the move to defense is the opportunity to emerge as a playmaker. Making more plays has been a great emphasis for the entire Notre Dame defense during the early parts of fall camp. Jackson notices that influence, and he says the defense is responding well.
“Everybody’s running to the ball, we’re doing a great job running to the ball this year,” Jackson said. “Coach (Bob) Diaco, he’s so energized each practice. He gets everybody up and energized. I feel like the coaching staff is doing a great job getting everybody to run to the football.”
Jackson and the defensive players know that chasing the football and having an emphasis on getting the football can have a big impact on the outcome of football games.
“You know, not every time the running back is going to fall with the ball,” continued Jackson. “If a fumble happens there’s not always guys around the ball to get the ball back, but if we can pick the ball up it can be a game-changer.”
More game-changers on defense would be a welcome sight this fall, and Jackson hopes he can be one of the players making those plays.
08-07-2012, 04:04 AM #37Senior Member
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SOUTH BEND -- Even though the walls of the Notre Dame football facility are thick and security is tight, the questions/comments/criticisms/doubts leak through.
It doesn't take an in-depth probe of the 2012 Irish to come up with the areas of imperative concern: 1. Quarterback; 2. Cornerback; 3. Wide receiver.
Probably in that order.
Junior corner Bennett Jackson doesn't live his life with headphones on. He's heard the talk. In fact, the 6-foot, 185-pound Jersey guy doesn't blame those who aren't convinced.
Why should he? He's the veteran of the group with a grand total of 65 snaps on defense last season ("I haven't adjusted to the idea of being the old guy yet," he said). He has 28 career tackles, most of which came in his role as a kickoff coverage kamikaze extraordinaire.
"Everybody's so concerned about the inexperience of the cornerbacks," Jackson said after Monday's practice. "I see it and I hear it all the time. It's all around. You try not to pay attention, but if everything's all around, you're going to catch notice of some. I can understand, exactly.
"I like it. People on the outside don't know what we do every day. I know what I'm capable of. I know what our defense is capable of. I'm just excited to show it off."
Last year's starters, Gary Gray and Robert Blanton, are gone. Jackson appears to be the closest thing to a lock at one corner. On the other side, Lo Wood, Josh Atkinson and Cam McDaniel seem to be the best bets to find their way into a rotation.
Not a lot of minutes under the bright lights between those guys.
"They haven't played a ton, but that's what college football is about," said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. "People graduate, and it's the next guy's chance."
The next guy, whoever it is, will be a poster child for the premise on which Kelly's program is built: Player development.
If there were ever a bunch of guys who were in desperate need of development, it's the four fellows vying for two cornerback spots.
Even with two veterans at corner in 2011, Notre Dame still yielded 206 passing yards a game. Blanton and Gray had two interceptions each. The only other cornerback pick was one returned 57 yards for a TD by Wood against Maryland.
Heck, not only is Jackson waiting to get his first interception, his next broken-up pass will be his first.
A rarely-used receiver and special teams impact player as a freshman, Jackson is just now getting the hang of what it takes to visit that "island" on which corners must play -- and live to tell about it.
"You know all the pressure's on you at first," Jackson said of that one-on-one mentality. "I like having the pressure on me, knowing that one guy is me."
It starts with technique. Know the assignment. Execute it properly. Don't flinch. Don't back down.
And, whatever happens, don't go "fishing."
What was the toughest part of the position to learn, when he made the move from receiver?
"Being 'fished,'" Jackson said. "High-lows, receivers tricking you around. The reason why that was hard was because it came through repetitions. Not having too many reps under my belt at first, it took a little while to get onto that."
Melting the football-ese from the explanation, the best way to describe being "fished" is being faked by the quarterback.
"The quarterback will try to pump-fake you (during a play)," Jackson said.
Bite on the fake and the receiver flies past on a deep route.
"If you jump the (pump-fake), they'll throw it to the high route," he explained. "You don't want to play 'low.' You want to play the top down."
Odds are it's going to happen. Maybe not against Navy, and the Midshipmen's option. But with Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan to follow, the heat's going to be on the Irish corners.
"You have to have a short-term memory," Jackson said. "Figure out what you did wrong and make sure it doesn't happen again."
And keep the headphones on the rest of the week.All winning teams are goal-oriented. Teams like these win consistently because everyone connected with them concentrates on specific objectives. They go about their business with blinders on; nothing will distract themfrom achieving their aims.
- Lou Holtz, former Notre Dame football coach
09-23-2012, 04:26 AM #38Senior Member
All winning teams are goal-oriented. Teams like these win consistently because everyone connected with them concentrates on specific objectives. They go about their business with blinders on; nothing will distract themfrom achieving their aims.
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- Lou Holtz, former Notre Dame football coach
09-23-2012, 06:24 AM #39Senior Member
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- Deep in the Heart of Texas
12-21-2012, 08:37 AM #40Moderator
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Notre Dame football: Jackson gets All-American help
By ERIC HANSEN - Follow me @hansenNDInsider
South Bend Tribune
10:46 p.m. EST, December 20, 2012
SOUTH BEND -- They were brought together by a seating chart, strangers who eventually became cohorts of sorts after meeting at a Notre Dame football luncheon.
"We just started talking about cornerback play in general," Irish junior corner Bennett Jackson recalled. "Then he gave me his card. I wound up running into him a few more times over the summer, at the Fantasy Camp and stuff like that.
"Eventually, I just started calling him, and now I talk to him all the time."
Those talks with Notre Dame three-time All-American Luther Bradley became an important piece in the dramatic rise of Bennett, from a preseason unknown to a player who actually had a tough decision to make this past month about whether to cash in a dream season for a second- or third-round call in April's NFL Draft.
It was never enough of a temptation, though, for Jackson to submit a request to the NFL Draft Advisory Board for a draft appraisal.
"I don't want to leave college," said Jackson, who pointed to decisions in recent years by stars Manti Te'o, Tyler Eifert and Michael Floyd that influenced his thinking.
"You build so many friendships with the players, coaches, students, local people, it's just a great environment. I do think it has to do with the people at Notre Dame. There's a bunch of great people here."
And now Notre Dame has a shockingly good pass defense to complement them.
With four first-time starters in the secondary, the Irish finished the regular-season 13th nationally in pass-efficiency defense, up 45 spots from 2011, and became the surprise element in ND's own evolution from preseason unranked to the nation's No. 1 team.
The Irish (12-0) take on No. 2 Alabama (12-1) in the BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 7 in Miami.
Bradley, incidentally, played on two Irish national championship teams (1973 and '77), and was a first-year starter himself in the '73 Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama that gave coach Ara Parseghian his final national title.
"We talk about consistency in technique," Jackson said of Bradley, whose All-America seasons came in 1975, '76 and '77. "It's your mental preparation really, he told me. Cornerback is really mental. You've got to be confident."
And apparently studying the game to extremes doesn't hurt either.
Jackson regularly asks former teammates Harrison Smith and R.J. Blanton, both Minnesota Vikings rookies, to pick apart his game performances. He also studies tape of dozens of NFL players, not necessarily to adapt their techniques but learn from their successes and mistakes.
"Champ Bailey is the guy I watch the most," Jackson said of the Denver Broncos star corner. "But I watch so many guys, I don't even know half their names. I just know their numbers and their tendencies.
"I don't try to be anyone else. I have my own uniqueness. It's just another way to learn."
And this is what that learning looks like numerically -- four interceptions, twice as many as any Irish player had in 2011, and 61 tackles, second-most on the team. Typically, a corner with 61 tackles means a plethora of completed passes downfield, but Jackson racked up a lot of his big numbers in run support.
He had 16 tackles in 2011 as a backup cornerback, seven of those coming on special teams.
In 2010, Jackson was a wide receiver, but his play as a gunner on special teams got coach Brian Kelly thinking about flipping him to defense.
At Raritan High School in Hazlet, N.J., Jackson was a little bit of everything. He even was the team's primary kicker.
"My longest field goal in high school was 47 yards," he puffed. "Kicked a couple of 42-yarders too. Had a few game-winners. If I was a kicker here, they'd call me 'Golden Foot.' I'd challenge (ND kicker) Kyle Brindza to a kicking contest, but I don't want to ruin anybody's confidence."
Confidence reigns now in a secondary comprising two other converted offensive players -- sophomore Matthias Farley and true freshman KeiVarae Russell -- and senior safety Zeke Motta.
"I think the turning point for us as a unit was the Michigan game," Jackson said of a 13-6 victory in which Jackson collected one of five Irish interceptions. "That was the game Zeke and I knew Matthias and KeiVarae were going to perform the same way we were performing. We knew they weren't going to give up a big play.
"Obviously, going into the season, we were telling everybody, 'We're not giving up anything.' As time went on, we kept overcoming things. And the Michigan game was the game we really started to believe what we said all along."
Back home in Hazlet, they never doubted it, especially Raritan head coach Robert Generelli.
"It's kind of weird, because he told me even before I started getting recruited that he thought I'd be a better cornerback than receiver in college," Jackson said. "I completely blew him off. I was like, 'Yeah right.'
"As I started getting offers, some of the schools did ask me about playing defense. I still didn't pay much attention to it. I thought receiver was going to be where I'd excel. Every once in a while, I think about what it would be like had I stayed on that side of the ball. You envision that you'd catch every ball.
"But I'm where I belong. I'm glad I'm a cornerback. I'm glad to be a part of this secondary. It's all in front of me now and I'm going to take advantage of this opportunity."
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