In a better position
One year at WR teases potential
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.”
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.
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.”