There was a time when athletes like Donte Jackson didn't come to LSU. In the not so distant past, even. Sure, LSU had players like Skyler Green, but in the Miles era, LSU mostly struggled to find roles for smaller, speedier types. Plenty of room for the big bodied beasts on the outside, but if you were a shorter player with good speed or quicks, you'd probably be better suited seeking another school.
Then came Odell Beckham Jr., who himself isn't overtly "small" so much as he is just not large. At 6 foot even, Beckham never towered over defenders, but instead used his incredible athleticism and dedication to route running to overwhelm. Donte Jackson fits the athletic mold, though he's not quite as polished as even Beckham was as an incoming prospect.
Donte Jackson wasn't always a lock to land at LSU. A pair of Texas schools, A&M and Tech, were the first to offer. LSU came just a day later, but only a few weeks later, Jackson named Georgia his leader. It would be the only team he would publicly declare as a leader until his commitment ceremony. Georgia remained his presumed favorite throughout most of the season, though murmurs indicated LSU crept further and further into the picture. The staff did not relent just because Donte didn't come out and declare them leaders from the word go.
But by the end of the process the home team won out, by being just exactly that: home. Donte himself said no other school felt as much like home as LSU, which is a testament to the work done by the staff on a player many thought might head as far as Oregon or even across the division to Georgia.
Donte's strong relationship with fellow LSU signee, Tyron Johnson, who committed just a few weeks before Donte, undoutbedly didn't hurt things. Johnson made it a point to show up at Donte's ceremony, as well.
Jackson isn't a recruit that lived in the limelight throughout his prep career. As previously mentioned, his first offers didn't come until last summer. He wasn't considered one of the very best in the state, much less nation, until he was heading into his senior campaign. But he took to the camp circuit and started blowing people away with his athleticism. By season's end Jackson was considered a 5-star prospect by a few different publications, including 247 Sports.
Jackson was a participant at 2014's the Opening, and invited to play in the U.S. Army All-American Game. He was mentioned as a standout performer during practices that week. He finished ranked as a 4-star on the 247 Composite with a .9731 rating.
100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career.
97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who displays pro-potential.
89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country.
79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.
Tale of the Tape
Short Shuttle: 4.19
Power Ball: 34.0"
Vertical Leap: 35.7
The 40 time is deceiving for a kid that ran a 10.2 100 meters, and honestly not anything I would "worry" about. Think of it this way, Donte Jackson runs a 4.47 on a bad day. There's not a bad number in this bunch. While none of them will blow you away, there's not much reason to be concerned about Donte's athleticism. His speed is off the charts. If there's any real concern it's that he's fairly slight. His listed height and weight are similar to Beckham's coming out but he just looks more narrow and frail.
Strengths: Speed, Quickness, Versatility
Weaknesses: Frame, Raw
Speed: He has it. In spades. Dominant, jaw dropping, elite speed. Donte can run away from folks. Almost all folks. He makes fast people look like they are stuck in the mud. Basically every clip on the reel will do but the first clip, at :05, he beats angles he shouldn't, he blasts past every and makes them all look like they are moving in slow motion. I also like the clip at :43 where he flashes some football instincts. But watch his break on the ball and how much ground he covers. Just unreal.
Quickness/Explosion: Straight line speed is really a limited use skill in football. It's pretty rare a player winds up in a situation with the ability to run in a straight line without obstruction, thus the importance of quickness. Donte's got that too. Just check out his quick cutting ability at 1:08. I pair these together because what he does with them is so rare. Not only can he drop and cut on a dime, he explodes to full speed in a breath.
Versatility: Jackson will begin his career on defense, but expect to see him get snaps on offense too. In May, Frank Wilson commented that the staff felt they wasted Patrick Peterson by not using him on offense, and wouldn't make that mistake again. Donte's a guy you don't have to get too fancy with to have him make an impact. Get him the ball on screens, even handoffs, and he can make a defense pay.
Frame: As previously noted, Jackson is on the slighter side and it will probably take him a couple of years to build up adequate muscle mass for playing corner full time. Not that corners need to be massive, but some extra bulk will help him in run support and handling the physical receivers of the SEC.
Raw: As of yet, he's inexperienced. He'll need to learn the finer aspects of playing ball, though he flashes at times on tape. This isn't to say Jackson is a track star in football pads, but I don't think he's as far along as, say, classmate Tyron Johnson.
If I had to pick a single player from this class to emerge as the "best," my money is probably on Donte Jackson. He's got elite athletic tools to make him something like the next Odell Beckham Jr., but on defense. He's the type of guy that will likely have some jaw-dropping plays during his career at LSU, where he simply beats an angle and blows by a defense or a coverage unit for a massive TD.
Jackson has that rare speed that only so few possess. I'm intrigued about where he winds up. I agree with the staff that he seems more naturally suited to play defense. He seems to have solid instincts and that start-stop ability that will allow him to stick to receivers in coverage, so long as he can add enough mass to not be bullied. That said, that start-stop ability is often what makes great route runners. Jackson's potential doesn't have a ton of limits. Look for him to be a major, major impact player during his career at LSU.
High End: Multi-purpose threat and dynamic playmaker on both sides of the ball. All-SEC candidate.
Low End: Depth at the CB position if he never rounds out his game and remains a raw, athletic prospect.
Realistic: Multi-year starter on defense with the occasional big-splash players on special teams and offense.