Although severely undersized for the defensive tackle position (he had to gain weight early in his career at USC to even see playing time at DE), Jackson has gotten upwards of 270 pounds and been an effective scheme player when slanting and stunting for Tennessee.
He will likely switch back to DE in the NFL, but 3-4 base defense teams could be excited about him playing DE considering his time spent inside. He has seventh-round value as a versatile d-lineman.
He played sparingly as a true freshman backup end, recording 4.0 tackles, 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble. Jackson was again a backup in 2009 as a sophomore in what turned out to be his final season for the Trojans, collecting 18 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
In the summer of 2010, he opted to transfer to Tennessee, becoming the second Southern Cal player to take advantage of NCAA-instituted bylaws allowing USC juniors and seniors to transfer to another FBS-level program without sitting out a year, claiming "needing a fresh start" as his reason.
Despite only a few months in Knoxville, Jackson earned a starting job as a junior in 2010, splitting time between end and tackle and earning Second Team All-SEC honors with 48 tackles, 5.0 sacks, four pass breakups and a team-best 11.0 tackles for loss. He returned in 2011 as a senior and started all 12 games at defensive tackle, collecting a career-high 56 tackles and led the team in both sacks (2.5) and tackles for loss (11.0) and earned Second Team All-SEC honors.
Jackson is a highly-cut athlete with a versatile skill-set and saw time inside and outside in college, but looks more natural as an end. He played 95 percent of his snaps at tackle for the Volunteers, which limited his effectiveness and production playing out of position.
Jackson is an upright defender who relies too much on his upper body and needs to develop his lower-body strength to reach his potential. Despite his lack of flexibility, he has the quickness and skill-set to be an effective lineman, but he needs to improve his leverage off the snap in order to be effective at the next level.
Jackson showed steady improvement over his career and his best football looks to be ahead of him - Tennessee coaches rave about his ability.
Strengths: Very good size and frame with a strong upper body and long arms. Very good quickness and agility for his size and is a naturally explosive player with good get-off speed. Jackson stays balanced through contact and keeps working to penetrate the pocket, playing with a good motor.
He is stout at the point of attack and plays with good length and wrist/hand strength to secure tackles. Jackson has also shown the ability to rip the ball out of the grasp of ballcarriers with four career forced fumbles.
Improved awareness and footwork to drop in space when needed. Versatile skill-set to play multiple positions on the defensive line and has experience playing inside and outside.
Weaknesses: Plays too tall and allows himself to get upright off the snap. Needs to do a better job with leverage to win at the line of scrimmage, relying too much on his upper-body strength. Lean lower body and needs to improve his strength in his legs and thighs. Suspect body flexibility and tight hips.
Not a natural bender and lacks fluid change of direction ability. Plays with inconsistent pad level and is often knocked backwards off the snap.
Only average career production at the college level (13.0 career sacks). Still a bit raw in his development and needs to eliminate senseless penalties. Looks fatigued at times, struggling to finish plays, and conditioning might be an issue."
NFL Comparison: Tim Crowder, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
-- Dane Brugler
Gets inconsistent with his pad level off the ball as a pass rusher because of it. When trying to shoot gaps at times does a nice job staying low and extending his arms into contact in order to create a jolt. However, for the most part his pad level comes up, head stays down and doesn’t use his long arms to protect himself. Can be jacked on contact and doesn’t create a push as a defensive tackle.
Displays some natural athletic ability when asked to loop/stunt inside. However, hasn’t put it together with his pass rush arsenal yet. Is more of a linear guy only at this stage who lacks a counter/ change of direction ability. Nevertheless, consistently gets his long arms up in pass lanes and knocks a lot of throws down.
Displays impressive athletic ability though and when he does get his hands up off the line he can consistently keep himself clean and works like a bear in pursuit. Showcases great range off his frame for the position and demonstrates a good motor to go along with it.
Exhibits a natural anchor as well for his size when asked to play the piano down the line. Is coordinated/powerful initially on his punch, can control blocks and work his way in pursuit. However, gets overextended and upright causing him to struggle with balance when asked to breakdown at make a play on the ball.
Also, sees time at DE and looks much more coordinated when asked to get into contact, extend his arms and use his violent hands to shed. Lacks the anchor to hold up consistently inside vs. the downhill run game at the next level, as he can be easily sealed on contact.
Needs to penetrate and win with his first step in order to be effective vs. the inside run. Holds up very well on the outside though, setting the edge, playing off blocks and working toward the football.
Impression: A great looking athlete. Has some real work to do from a technique standpoint and is playing out of position at Tennessee. However, has a lot of upside as a DE both in a 43 and 34 front in the NFL and looks like a really intriguing developmental defensive lineman at this stage with a good bit up upside long term."
Rangy defensive lineman with long arms and good closing speed, but isn’t particularly quick or flexible; has good strength and a decent punch;
Had 48 tackles in 2010, including 5 sacks and 6 other tackles for loss with most coming after he moved inside midway through the season; also knocked down four passes and even intercepted one; motor has been questioned in the past."
Negatives -- Undersized defensive tackle, played out of position at Tennessee, isn't real stout against the run as a DT, won't be able to hold up inside at the professional level, doesn't always have the power to disengage... His lack of weight hurts him, lacks strength, can't create a push at defensive tackle, lacks the anchor to hold up inside, needs to bulk up 10-15 pounds to play 3-4 DE or he could drop a few pounds and a team could give him a look at 3-4 OLB... A straight-line type of athlete, has impressive overall athletic ability but isn't real flexible and struggles to change direction, doesn't have much of a pass rushing arsenal... Plays upright out of his stance and gets more upright as he tires, needs to do a better job staying low, doesn't use his arms to protect himself when playing high, lots of work to be done with his technique... Wears a bulky knee brace on his left knee and there may be medical questions heading into the NFL combine... Opted to transfer to Tennessee following two years at Southern California after the Trojans were hit with a two-year postseason ban... All in all, Jackson is an impressive athlete with some upside but will be a developmental project and won't contribute right away."