We are less than 48 hours until kick-off and we’re reaching the top spot in our countdown of the top 25 players on the 2013 Notre Dame football roster. Our latest stop is the four spot occupied by none other than Bennett Jackson
Originally recruited to Notre Dame as a wide receiver out of the home state of then head coach Charlie Weis, Notre Dame fans were giddy about a senior year highlight reel that showed a potential playmaker with the ball in the open field. After Weis was fired and after spending on the scout team at wide receiver and terrorizing opposing special teams unit as Notre Dame’s top gunner though, Jackson switched to the defense side of the ball in 2011 and hasn’t looked back.
Jackson, a one-time track star, spent 2011 learning the cornerback position and putting the skills he gained as Notre Dame’s top gunner to use. In a reserve role Jackson didn’t see a whole lot of action behind Gary Gray and Robert Blanton, but he experience he gained in practice served him well in 2012.
With Blanton and Gray graduated and Lo Wood lost for the season in camp, Jackson was the only corner with any game experience on the roster last year. Jackson stepped in for Blanton and the Irish defense didn’t skip a beat with Jackson picking off four passes and being a stalwart in the run game. Now a senior, Jackson is one of three captains for the 2013 season and the leader of a defense poised to once again be one of the nation’s elite.
Why Bennett Jackson could be ranked higher
Jackson has the ability to be the first All-American cornerback for the Irish since Shane Walton was a consensus All-American over a decade ago. After seamlessly transitioning to defense and becoming an impact player in his first stint as a starter, the sky is the limit for Jackson.
Playing on a defense that will generate a good pass rush thanks to one of the nation’s best defensive lines, Jackson will be able to take some risks this year since he won’t have to cover opposing receivers very long too often. That could result in an even better reception total for Jackson in 2013 which would cement his place as possibly the best corner to play for Notre Dame in the last decade.
Jackson is only projected to be a 5th round pick by CBS right now. Expect that projection to change quite a bit between now and April.
Why Bennett Jackson could be ranked lower
At this point in the countdown, it’s tough to envision many of these players not being as good as they are ranked. Jackson proved last year he is more than dependable at corner and that he has the potential to be an elite corner on the college level for Notre Dame.
It would be a shock if Jackson was not one of the top 5 performers for the Irish this fall – especially after the coaches made him one of the captains for this season.
What would a successful season in 2013 be for Bennett Jackson
As a first time starter, Jackson recorded 65 tackles and picked off 4 passes. In order for 2013 to be successful Jackson doesn’t have to see his interception total increase since a high interception total isn’t always a good thing since it could mean that a lot of passes are thrown his way.
For 2013 to be a success, Jackson needs to be the vocal leader of the defense with Manti Te’o in the NFL. This year’s defense has the potential to be even better than last years if things go as planned, but for that to happen, it will need a leader. Jackson is that leader as the only defensive player among the three captains.
If the 2013 defense plays at the same level it did in 2012, Jackson’s season will be a smashing success since it will mean that he more than did his job as a captain. All that said, I don’t think anyone will complain about another 4 interception season either. And, if we were betting men, we’d bet on Jackson finding his name in the All-American mix by the end of the season.
The rest of our countdown so far:
#5 – Prince Shembo – OLB
#6 – TJ Jones – WR
#7 – DaVaris Daniels – WR
#8 – Chris Watt – OG
#9 – Sheldon Day – DL
#10 – George Atkinson – RB
#11 – Keivarae Russell - CB
#12 – Matthias Farley – S
#13 – Troy Niklas – TE
#14 – Tommy Rees – QB
#15 – Amir Carlisle – RB
#16 - Danny Spond – OLB
#17 - Dan Fox - ILB
#18 – Jarrett Grace – ILB
#19 – Greg Bryant – RB
#20 – Christian Lombard – RT
#21 – Elijah Shumate - S
#22 – Jaylon Smith - OLB
#23 – Ishaq Williams – OLB/DE
#24 - Max Redfield - S
#25 - CJ Prosise - WR