In a bet­ter po­si­tion

One year at WR teases po­ten­tial

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - JEREMY MUCK

The eighth in a se­ries pro­fil­ing new­com­ers to the Arkansas Ra­zor­backs foot­ball team.

Koilan Jack­son wanted to be a wide re­ceiver.

The Arkansas Ra­zor­backs fresh­man had to wait un­til his se­nior sea­son of high school to ful­fill his wish, and he had to trans­fer to an­other school in the process.

Jack­son moved from Lit­tle Rock Parkview, where he was the Pa­tri­ots’ start­ing quar­ter­back, to Joe T. Robin­son be­fore the 2016 sea­son. At Robin­son, Jack­son suited up at the po­si­tion he wanted to play be­cause the Sen­a­tors al­ready had Hunter Eskola at quar­ter­back.

“I felt as if it was a po­si­tion I should have played the whole time,” Jack­son said. “I feel like the tran­si­tion was eas­ier than it nor­mally would be for some­body else. I liked how it hap­pened.”

The move paid div­i­dends for the Sen­a­tors.

In Robin­son’s first game against Hot Springs Lake­side at War Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in Lit­tle Rock, Jack­son caught four passes for 106 yards and two touch­downs. His touch­down re­cep­tions of 38 and 27 yards helped Robin­son roll to a 51-28 vic­tory over the Rams.

Jack­son was Eskola’s top

tar­get, haul­ing in 57 passes for 1,206 yards and 12 touch­downs as Robin­son (11-2) ad­vanced to the Class 4A quar­ter­fi­nals. He was a first-team Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette All-Arkansas Preps wide re­ceiver.

“He was the best re­ceiver in the state last year,” Robin­son Coach Todd Eskola said. “We felt like there was no­body bet­ter. The na­tion will see that in the com­ing years.”

Jack­son was hon­est when asked to as­sess his se­nior sea­son.

“I was get­ting the hang of it at wide re­ceiver,” Jack­son said. “I still am, to be hon­est. There are some things I can work on.

“But now that I have a year of ex­pe­ri­ence be­ing an in-game wide re­ceiver, it will help me for next year.”

On Feb. 1, Jack­son of­fi­cially signed a na­tional let­ter of in­tent to play for the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville over of­fers from Illi­nois, Mem­phis, Army, Louisiana-Mon­roe and oth­ers. Illi­nois and Army orig­i­nally of­fered Jack­son as a quar­ter­back when he was at Parkview.

When Jack­son com­mit­ted April 29, 2016, he re­called Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema telling him that he can ex­plore his op­tions at quar­ter­back, but he en­vi­sioned Jack­son as a wide re­ceiver.

Be­fore ar­riv­ing at Arkansas in May, Jack­son worked on con­di­tion­ing with his brother Kenyon, a de­fen­sive line­man who is en­ter­ing his sopho­more sea­son at Illi­nois.

“He showed me what con­di­tion­ing is like [in col­lege],” Jack­son said. “Con­di­tion­ing is a whole other level up there. It’s not all about power. It’s about form and po­si­tion.”

As fall camp opens Thurs­day, Jack­son has an op­por­tu­nity to earn play­ing time as a true fresh­man.

“[Arkansas wide re­ceivers] coach [Michael] Smith told me the wide re­ceiver spot is wide open,” Jack­son said. “I feel like I can come in and have an im­pact.”

Jack­son comes from a strong foot­ball fam­ily.

His father, Keith, starred at Lit­tle Rock Parkview be­fore play­ing at Oklahoma as a tight end from 1984-1987. He played nine sea­sons in the NFL with the Philadelphia Ea­gles, Mi­ami Dol­phins and Green Bay Pack­ers, win­ning a Su­per Bowl ring with the Pack­ers in his fi­nal sea­son (1996).

Keith Jack­son was the Ra­zor­backs’ ra­dio color an­a­lyst from 2000-2016, team­ing with the late Paul Eells and Chuck Bar­rett. With Koilan now in col­lege, Keith will watch him and Kenyon from the stands in­stead of the broad­cast booth.

Koilan Jack­son’s old­est brother, Keith Jr., played at Arkansas from 2003-2006.

Jack­son said he didn’t ask for ad­vice from his father or his broth­ers about play­ing in col­lege be­fore ar­riv­ing in Fayet­teville ear­lier this year, but they’ve given it to him any­way.

“They tell me it’s a whole ‘nother level. A whole ‘nother level of en­ergy and in­ten­sity in prac­tice,” Jack­son said.

“He is an out­stand­ing young man. He comes from a great fam­ily. The tal­ent is un­de­ni­able. The sky is the limit for him.” Joe T. Robin­son Coach Todd Eskola on Koilan Jack­son

Choos­ing Arkansas was a sim­ple de­ci­sion.

“It was home to me,” Jack­son said. “It was very close. On top of that, I’ve watched them grow­ing up. My brother played there. I’ve been watch­ing the whole pro­gram turn­ing around. We’ve had re­la­tion­ships with the coaches be­cause of my dad, and they know me.”

Eskola had Jack­son in his pro­gram for one sea­son, but he said it was spe­cial to have him around.

“He is an out­stand­ing young man,” Eskola said. “He comes from a great fam­ily. The tal­ent is un­de­ni­able. The sky is the limit for him. He wanted to play re­ceiver. He was ex­cited about it. He hadn’t been able to play there un­til he came over last year.

“He was a re­ally good fit for our pro­gram. He came into an of­fense that’s ex­plo­sive, that tries to get the ball to play­mak­ers. He liked that. He liked the free­dom of go­ing one on one and hav­ing checks at the line. It pre­pared him for play­ing at the next level. He re­ally fit in well with our kids.”

Demo­crat-Gazette file photo

In his first sea­son as a wide re­ceiver, Koilan Jack­son ex­celled in 2016 at Joe T. Robin­son. Jack­son caught 12 touch­down passes for the Sen­a­tors, who fin­ished 11-2 and ad­vanced to the Class 4A quar­ter­fi­nals.

Demo­crat-Gazette file photo

For­mer Joe T. Robin­son wide re­ceiver Koilan Jack­son (1) said his de­ci­sion to go to Arkansas was an easy choice. “It was home to me. It was very close. On top of that, I’ve watched them grow­ing up,” Jack­son said. “My brother played there. I’ve been watch­ing the whole pro­gram turn around.”

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