The second defensive player that we'll be highlighting in Making the Leap is a guy who will be making a big jump from the bench right into a presumed starting role: Solomon Jackson. Jackson was moved from backup inside linebacker to starting defensive end this offseason and he has the looks of a player who is hungry and poised to be a breakout star on a young Bulls defense.
Career Review/Why He's Here
Jackson is one of several Bulls to hail from the Peach State where he played for Tucker High School in Stone Mountain, Georgia. While competing for Tucker, Jackson won a Class AAAA Georgia state championship to cap off an undefeated 15-0 season while competing at offensive guard and defensive end. Jackson was also a multi-sport star, which isn't uncommon, but what is uncommon about Jackson is the sport that he played. Most football players wrestled or did throws during track and field season, but Jackson was a champion swimmer for Tucker, winning county championships and racing in the Georgia state championships in multiple seasons.
More Making the Leap
More Making the Leap
After coming to Buffalo and redshriting during his first season with the team, Jackson served as a reserve inside linebacker and special teams player last season. During his limited time on the field Jackson recorded three tackles and a fumble recovery against Ohio.
He's on the list because of his freaky athletic ability, coupled with the youth movement on the defensive line opening up starting sports and rotation spots for big minutes during games making a "perfect storm" for a player like him to break out.
- Measurables - While Jackson is a good size (6-1 240 lbs), he's a good size for a linebacker, and not the ideal size for a defensive end. He'll need to rely on speed and a quick first step to get past opposing offensive tackles and avoid getting swallowed up if the opposing lineman get their hands on him.
- Position Transition - Transitioning from one position to another can be difficult, but an advantage Jackson has is that he played DE in high school so the challenge won't be as great as someone who would be brand new to the position.
- Competition - There's a lot of competition for playing time along the defensive line, so everyone will be clawing for each minute of playing time. And as I write this there's only 2 starters set in stone, and a whole bunch of guys including: Gusty Schwartzmeier, Jake Khoury, Demone Harris, Randy Anyanwu, Corey Henderson, and signees Torey Hendrick and Charles Harris among others will all be competing for minutes so standing out to the coaching staff will be a must.
In a season with a completely new defensive scheme and a lot of new faces in key position groups, it's difficult to gauge what expectations could look like. It's even more difficult to analyze a player when there's not much footage in high school let alone college to reference, but after watching him at the spring game, Jackson quickly became one of my favorite players.
Editors Note: I know, I know, everyone looks great in the spring game and yes there was vanilla play-calling, blah blah blah, I get it. But the spring game is a good gauge for me and watching his performance in conjunction with the coach's comments can give a pretty good picture.
Jackson showed off great speed during the spring game from the weak side defensive end position, consistently putting pressure on the pocket and helping lead a dominant effort from the defensive line. The weak side defensive end position is the blindside pass rusher who's main purpose is to get to the quarterback and introduce him to the AstroTurf; this position requires a better athlete rather than a larger athlete which works in Jackson's favor and allows him to overcome his less than ideal size. For his efforts in the spring game Jackson had two quarterback sacks and drew the praise of defensive coordinator Brian Borland and head coach Lance Leipold.
With his combination of speed and non-stop motor, Jackson could thrive in the weak side defensive end spot as a pass rusher that UB sorely needs. I think that because of the depth along the line that a lot of rotations will be used throughout games to keep guys' legs fresh and that's best for the team but may not be helpful for individual statistics. I would expect, based on the evidence, Jackson to earn one of the starting defensive end spots and start to emerge as a pass rusher as make an impact on the Bulls defense.
While the amount of time he'll see on the field is written in sand at this point, Jackson is poised to be one of several defensive linemen that can make an instant impact in Brian Borland's 4-3 scheme.
Prediction: 35 tackles, 6 TFL, 4 sacks