Some players have the ‘it’ factor, some can do it all. Michigan receiver Giles Jackson fits that description to a T.
When Jackson has the ball in his hands there’s always a chance for a big play. In 2019, Jackson returned kicks for Michigan, caught passes, ran sweeps, and even lined up out of the backfield. The ways Jackson can be utilized in a playbook are endless.
On Thursday, Jackson was named to the Paul Hornung Award watch list, which goes to the most versatile player in college football.
Jackson averaged 25.9-yards per return (24 attempts) in 2019, with a 97-yard return touchdown, while rushing for 69 yards and a score along with 9 receptions for 142 yards and 1 TD. Versatile and impressive numbers for a player who didn’t see the field a ton.
Michigan's Giles Jackson takes opening kickoff 97 yards for touchdown. His HS 100m was better than 87% of 2600+ class of 2019 football prospects.pic.twitter.com/25Nq9uk2Iy— Brian Spilbeler (@CoachSpil) November 2, 2019
Jackson’s numbers will likely improve in 2019 with a major bump in playing time, and we likely haven’t seen the last of him running end arounds for sizable gains against Ohio State.
Speaking to a writer who has covered Michigan for decades he told me he hasn’t seen a player as electric as Jackson at UM since Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard. Jackson’s nearly unmatched collegiate speed will lead to even more gadget plays designed solely for him, but he also has the potential to be a polished receiver before his career at Michigan is over.
There was a play last year against Rutgers where quarterback Joe Milton threw to an open-spot but the play was not designed to go that direction. Jackson proceeded to make the correct adjustment and turn to the open area for the score. Head coach Jim Harbaugh called it “plus-plus by Giles”.
Giles Jackson scores his first touchdown of his college career.— Jesús Cano (@Juice_Cano) September 28, 2019
Jackson has natural instincts that are looking for the big play, every play. “He even left some yards out there last year that I think this year he’s going to be able to take advantage of,” running backs coach/special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh said in May, “just continuing to improve the way he understands our system, seeing the blocking scheme develop. Expecting a huge year from him.”
Cool backfield vertical concept from Harbaugh/Gattis today to Giles Jackson pic.twitter.com/l7ewuda1qc— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) January 1, 2020
It’s going to be nearly impossible for linebackers to cover Jackson in man-to-man coverage. And if Jackson continues to develop, it will lead to mismatches more often than not. If there comes a point where a defense is starting to put too much attention on Jackson, making him the one player they try to completely bottle up, then that’ll lead to more single-coverage for Nico Collins and others. The ascension of Jackson would lead to a ‘pick your poison’ situation for a defense to game-plan against, which in turn will bode well for increased productivity from the Michigan passing game.
To put it simply, Giles Jackson is a player to be excited about.