DeSean Jackson (WR)
DeSean Jackson declared for the 2008 NFL Draft on January 15, and it's safe to assume the only team in the Pac-10 Conference disappointed to see him go is Cal.
In three seasons at the university, the talented athlete terrorized his opponent every time he touched the ball -- as a receiver, punt returner and even on the occasional running play -- finding the end zone 29 times in 36 games.
Jackson almost didn't make it to California. He seriously considered enrolling at Southern California instead, but a late face-to-face meeting between the former Long Beach Poly High star and Bears head coach Jeff Tedford sealed the deal. Their extremely close relationship would later make Jackson's most difficult decision -- to leave school for the NFL, even harder to make, but the coach is convinced that his star pupil is ready to star at the next level.
At Long Beach Poly High School, Jackson was considered one the premier wide receivers in the nation. The Parade Magazine All-American was named the 2004 Glenn Davis Award winner by the Los Angeles Times as Southern California's Player of the Year and was a two-time member of the famed Long Beach Press-Telegram "Best in the West" first team.
ESPN.com's Tom Lemming rated Jackson as the fourth-best wide receiver in the country, Prep Star selected him an All-American and a member of its Dream Team Top 100 players, and Calhisports.com voted him the 2004 Mr. Football State Player of the Year. Super Prep ranked him 21st in its Elite 50 players in the nation and the fourth-best player in the state of California. Rivals.com rated him the third-best player in the Golden State area.
Jackson was Most Valuable Player of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, as he had seven receptions for 141 yards and passed for a 45-yard touchdown in leading the West squad to a 35-3 victory in a game that featured 80 of the nation's top players. He also sparkled in the Cali-Florida Bowl game, posting five catches for 145 yards and one score.
At Long Beach Poly, Jackson flagged down 60 passes for 1,075 yards for the CIF Southern Section championship team. He scored 15 touchdowns, eight of which covered at least 60 yards, including two on punt returns. In the CIF title game, he was a last-minute replacement on defense and responded with two interceptions, one of which he returned 68 yards for a touchdown to help fuel Long Beach Poly's 21-6 victory over Los Alamitos High. As a junior, he hunted down 43 passes for 821 yards and 11 touchdowns in earning first-team All-State accolades.
Involved in a heavy recruit war among California, Southern California, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Arizona State, Jackson enrolled at California, Berkeley in 2005, but there was concern he'd never play. In high school, Jackson hit .380 and stole 20 bases his senior year and he was considered the third-best all-around athlete in the Major League Baseball draft prospect pool in 2005 by Baseball America. Teams knew it would take a huge signing bonus to keep Jackson away from football, so they passed.
As late as his 2006 season at California, Jackson was still having thoughts of playing baseball.
In 2005, Jackson became the first incoming Cal player to win the Glenn Davis Award since running back Russell White captured the award for Crespi High School in 1987. Jackson took over flanker duties for the Bears, starting 10 contests, as he sat out the Washington State clash with a shoulder injury. He had a decent freshman campaign, totaling 698 all-purpose yards. He caught 38 passes for 601 yards (15.8-yard average) and seven touchdowns, adding 48 yards on eight carries (6.0-yard average). As a preview of things to come in 2006, Jackson's only punt return produced a 49-yard touchdown vs. Sacramento State in his collegiate debut.
As a sophomore, Jackson was a consensus All-American and unanimous All-Pac 10 Conference first-team choice. He captured the inaugural Randy Moss Award as the top return man in the nation, leading the NCAA with 18.2 yards per punt return, as he ranked second in the Pac-10 with nine receiving touchdowns. He set school and Pac-10 records for season (four) and career punt return touchdowns (five) with a 95-yarder vs. Arizona.
Jackson had four 100-yard games and registered 28 plays of 20 or more yards. He hauled in 59 passes for 1,060 yards (18.9-yard average) and gained 19 yards on five carries. He amassed 455 yards on 25 punt returns and 38 yards on two kickoff returns, piling up 1,572 all-purpose yards.
In 2007, Jackson was bothered by a badly sprained left thumb and was forced to wear a cast in practices and was heavily taped during games. He also suffered a deep thigh contusion vs. Washington that would force him to sit out the season finale vs. Stanford. He still earned American Football Coaches Association All-American first-team honors. He was a second-team All-Pac-10 pick as a receiver and punt returner.
Due to the injuries, he produced 762 yards and six touchdowns on 65 receptions (11.7-yard average). Jackson gained 132 yards with a score on 11 carries (12.0 avg) and returned only 12 punts for 129 yards (10.8 avg), including a 77-yard touchdown. He finished his junior campaign with 1,023 all-purpose yards.
In 36 games at California, Jackson started 34 games at flanker. He hauled in 162 passes for 2,423 yards (15.0-yard average) and 22 touchdowns. He carried 24 times for 199 yards (8.3 avg) and a score and also attempted one pass. On special teams, he gained 633 yards with six touchdowns on 38 punt returns (16.7 avg), 38 yards on two kickoff returns and recorded five solo tackles. He finished with 3,293 all-purpose yards, an average of 91.47 yards per game. For his career, he recorded 52 plays of 20 yards or more (23.0% of his 226 touches).
Attended Long Beach (Cal.) Polytechnic High School, where he was considered one the premier wide receivers in the nation...Parade Magazine All-American and named the 2004 Glenn Davis Award winner by the Los Angeles Times as Southern California's Player of the Year...Two-time member of the famed Long Beach Press-Telegram "Best in the West" first team...ESPN.com's Tom Lemming rated Jackson as the fourth-best wide receiver in the country, Prep Star selected him an All-American and a member of its Dream Team Top 100 players, and Calhisports.com voted him the 2004 Mr. Football State Player of the Year...Super Prep ranked him 21st in its Elite 50 players in the nation and the fourth-best player in the state of California...Rivals.com rated him the third-best player in the Golden State area...Most Valuable Player of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, as he had seven receptions for 141 yards and passed for a 45-yard touchdown in leading the West squad to a 35-3 victory in a game that featured 80 of the nation's top players...Also sparkled in the Cali-Florida Bowl game, posting five catches for 145 yards and one score...At Long Beach Poly, Jackson flagged down 60 passes for 1,075 yards for the CIF Southern Section championship team...Scored 15 touchdowns, eight covering at least 60 yards, including two punt returns...In the CIF title game, he was a last-minute replacement on defense and responded with two interceptions, one which he returned 68 yards for a touchdown to help fuel Long Beach Poly's 21-6 victory over Los Alamitos High...As a junior, he hunted down 43 passes for 821 yards and 11 touchdowns in earning first- team All-State accolades...Was considered the third-best all-around athlete in the Major League Baseball draft prospect pool in 2005 by Baseball America. Teams knew it would take a huge signing bonus to keep Jackson away from football, so they passed...Hit .380 and stole 20 bases his senior year.
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Positives: Lacks bulk on his lean frame, but shows good muscle tone, adequate bubble, good arm length, natural hands and tapered thighs and calves...Split high with good leg length, as his lower body looks and runs like a sprinter's...Has just adequate strength to fight for tough catches, but shows the sudden burst to elude in the open field...While he has sprinter's speed, it is not like that of a normal track man, as he has a rapid stride with quick feet and the lateral agility to get in and out of a crowd with his flexible torso and hips that lets him adjust on the move...Highly motivated and intense player who works to finish and is not afraid of contact, but needs to tone down his emotions (gets caught up in trash talk and is taken out of his game when he spends too much time jawing with an opponent)...Gives a good effort in the training room and is an intelligent athlete who knows how to game plan for his upcoming opponent...Can be a vocal leader when he needs to and can handle tough coaching...Shows outstanding explosion off the snap with excellent get-off speed...Quick-twitch type who might struggle vs. a strong press, but has the lateral agility to set up the defender and get the opponent out of his backpedal earlier than desired...Has a good rolling burst to his break point, doing a nice job of lowering his pads throughout the route's progression...When he sinks his pads, he is very fluid accelerating out of his breaks...Runs posts and slants cleanly and has a good understanding for stems, sticks and leverage (must improve transition)...Avoids defenders and works back to the pocket when the quarterback needs to scramble...Finds and sits in soft areas, waiting for the reception and has the rare speed to close the gap on off-man coverage, as he does a good job of extending and gaining a step for the over-the-shoulder grabs...Very creative on the move with fluid hips. He needs work on his transition cuts, but he can run past defenders on deep routes...Has good ability to extend and pluck the ball outside his frame, especially on off motion and swing routes...Will round routes at times, but has the ability to create separation after the catch...Holds on to the ball after the collision and, while he will not hesitate on routes coming inside, he will lose focus when he hears the defender's feet...Is a true threat to challenge the deep secondary, but in 2007, Cal quarterbacks could not get the ball to Jackson consistently...Has the body control to make adjustments to the ball in flight due to his torso flexibility and adjusts fluidly to off-target throws...Slides to catch the ball within the framework of his body and has good body control to adjust to off-target throws...Has the ability to make the hard plant, allowing the defender to slide by and then burst around his opponent to gain extra yardage after the catch...Does not back down and can drop his weight in front of a defender, but is just a marginal blocker.
Negatives: Had no injury problems until 2007, but with his small frame, he might not be able to withstand constant punishment in the many roles he plays and might be better served concentrating on receiving with limited involvement on special teams...Has very good speed, but is still a bit raw running routes and must improve his transition a bit...Is a willing blocker, but with his lack of bulk, he is risking further injury and also gets pushed back into the pocket too much when asked to block in-line (seems slow to fit and drop weight in front of the defender for better side and mirror)...Has an array of moves to get a clean release, but must keep his hands active when a press-coverage defender attacks his body...Has great confidence in his skills, but he'll be encouraged to quiet the on-field chatter at the next level, as physical defenders will make him pay...Relies on his quickness to get to the ball, but must show more aggression combating for the high throws in a crowd and hears footsteps...Could use more bulk on his frame, but not if it will impact his best asset -- explosive running ability.
Compares To: STEVE SMITH-Carolina...Some experts compare him to Santana Moss, but he is much more explosive in his drive off the ball to the break point and brings much more value on special teams. Others liken him to Devin Hester, but he is not in that class yet as a returner and, because of size issues, he has never really taken to the kickoff-return role. Jackson is a better deep threat with better hands as a receiver than Hester. He is a few inches bigger than Smith, but both have a combination of explosive burst, quick change-of-direction agility and cutting ability to threaten the deep secondary consistently.
2005: Did not play vs. Washington State (10/22) with a shoulder sprain.
2007: Suffered a badly sprained left thumb in the season opener vs. Tennessee (9/01) and the injury would hamper him throughout the season, as he was forced to wear a cast in practices and be heavily bandaged for several games...Missed the second half of the Washington game (11/17) and sat out the season finale vs. Stanford (12/01) with a thigh/quadriceps contusion.
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