Janzen Jackson getting a look as a nickel back

Photos by Adam Brimer/News Sentinel
Tennessee defensive back Zach Allen, left, is wrapped up by defensive back Janzen Jackson during the team's first practice in pads of fall camp Saturday at Haslam Field.

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2011

Photos by Adam Brimer/News Sentinel Tennessee defensive back Zach Allen, left, is wrapped up by defensive back Janzen Jackson during the team's first practice in pads of fall camp Saturday at Haslam Field.

Outside of the natural talent and an ability to hit someone with the power of a 250-pound linebacker, there's something different about how Janzen Jackson plays his position.

After Saturday's practice — Tennessee's first in pads — coach Derek Dooley said it was the "gambler" in his junior safety.

It's what has helped Jackson to emerge as one of the SEC's top defensive playmakers, but it's not always the best thing.

"A guy who gambles when he's way in the back, if he misses it's like putting all your (roulette) money on Black 22," Dooley said. "It's over."

That's why Jackson, along with a handful of others from UT's deep pool of defensive backs, is picking up plenty of repetitions at nickel back.

"We're really experimenting with a lot of guys," Dooley said. "Just trying to find the right combination of who's your best five and where you're going to put them on the field."

Also picking up work at the nickel are freshman Justin Coleman and redshirt sophomore Eric Gordon, both of whom typically play cornerback.

Jackson, though, presents the most interesting case. If he's playing at nickel, UT loses its "save-our-ship guy" in the back end, but that might be easier to replace now that the Vols boast a secondary loaded with young talent.

"If you move him up a little bit, you're kind of spreading out your bets because you've got guys behind him if he misses that can make the tackle," Dooley said. "It allows him to be a little more aggressive in reading the quarterback and taking some chances without really killing us.

"He's an active, fast-twitch, instinctive guy, so I think it can disrupt a quarterback a little bit more by moving him down."

Jackson, who withdrew from UT in February because of "personal reasons" before re-enrolling last month, has not been made available to reporters through the first week of camp.

The Neal Deal: With the addition of two talented freshmen, UT's backfield is significantly more crowded than it was at this point of last season.

That's allowed Dooley and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to flex some creativity with the use of sophomore Rajion Neal, who has received plenty of work with the wide receivers through the first week of camp.

"We're going to try to create ways to get him in space and get the ball to him where his speed can help him a little bit more," Dooley said. "We're kind of playing around with him as a specialty guy."

The sample size is small, but Neal has already proved capable out in space with the ball in the air.

As a freshman, he hauled in a 58-yard reception that set up a touchdown against Georgia and picked up a 26-yard gain on a similar rail route two weeks later against Alabama.

Neal, who struggled near the end of the season, finished with 197 rushing yards and 100 receiving.

"I just got that hunger to be great and definitely help this team and contribute way more than I did last year," Neal said Tuesday. "I'm willing to work, I'm ready to work and I'm trying to get there anyway I can."

King Me: Going down with an injury hasn't gotten any easier for junior linebacker Greg King, but he seems to have the recovery part all figured out.

"Every time it becomes depressing, but you've got to fight through it," King said. "You've got to do that for you and the team."

King's most recent surgery came during the summer, when his right knee went under the knife for an arthroscopic procedure. He's played 13 games over the past two years, starting in two. Both his freshman and sophomore seasons were marred by injuries.

"They've got good hope and high expectations of me," King said. "I really want to be able to show them, but it comes down to where you've got to be healthy and you've got to be on top of everything."

Practice Report: The Vols have today off after their first full-pads practice of the fall Saturday. It began at Haslam Field but ended inside the Neyland Thompson Sports Center because of lightning in the area.

"The whole day was pretty physical," Dooley said. "The pads were popping and the team's doing a good job. I'm looking for things to criticize, but I've been pleased with them."

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 33

CoverOrange writes:

Two things to worry about since linebackers are in short supply: having backers of the line strong enough to stop the run and backers of the line fast enough to cover underneath pass routes. Playing nickel is just a way to shore up the linebackers.

OrangePsyched writes:

Sounds like CDD is pretty pleased with things though it is way early. We have a lot of depth though much of it is unproven.

BlueHound writes:

Pouring the foundation...not pretty, not glamorous, but necessary.

flatrock writes:

I like the move of Jackson to nickel- for all the reasons that Coach Dooley mentioned. He is a big hitter- especially when the runner is going east-west or is hemmed in by other defenders. I have never thought he was a particularly sound open-field tackler- but he will be a nightmare on QB blitzes or on RBs
catching the ball out of the backfield. Better yet, this move is an indication that recruiting
has beefed up the secondary enough your team can afford for its' best player to be moved.
Good news. Go Vols!

Huttdawg100 writes:

Rajion Neal one on one with a linebacker sounds like trouble for defensive coordinators. Rogers, Hunter, and Rivera spread out with Neal lined up at running back. Thats a lot of toys for Bray and Chaney to work with.

iowavol writes:

in response to BlueHound:

Pouring the foundation...not pretty, not glamorous, but necessary.

good post. And extremely important to get it right - not right, everything else is out of kilter.

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If it wins us games... who cares.

VolinDelaware writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The prophet has spoken

givehim6 writes:

I usually know who does what, but not real sure about the nickel back, are they more on covering the running backs?

westnorange writes:

Having him at nickle definitely helps the young LB's out. Good move guys.

UTByrd writes:

in response to BlueHound:

Pouring the foundation...not pretty, not glamorous, but necessary.

I stated last year that CDD was pouring a solid foundation for the football house. This year is framing up time and getting the house in the dry. Next year, it will be time to trim out, paint, carpet, tile, fixtures, etc...you know, pretty it up.
So far, I believe CDD's house is in good order.
Go VOLS!!!!!

DalTexVol writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Keen sense of the obvious there turncoat. Don't you worry, it will turn itself around in time. Don't expect to come crawling back as a Vols fan though. No one likes a traitor.

ghawk writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You think maybe the coach explained it very well?

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Two things to worry about since linebackers are in short supply: having backers of the line strong enough to stop the run and backers of the line fast enough to cover underneath pass routes. Playing nickel is just a way to shore up the linebackers.

Agree completely. Bama has worked that magic every year with another player in the box on most plays, kind of a hybrid guy, like Jackson. He's certainly big enough to stop a RB cold on the first hit but also smart enough to recognize and fast enough to cover RB's and TE's on drag routes across the short middle. With their abundance of DB's and shortage of front seven guys, I think Dooley and Wilcox will need to do something like that until our front seven recruiting/experience catches up to the rest of the conference. Go Vols!!!

RockyTopinAlabubba writes:

Can't wait to see Janzen out there busting heads this year! Go Vols!

ncvol17 writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Garner, why not go back to the talent the General recruited? Remember the 55 Chevy, geez they will never make those again either.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

Looking forward to seeing some nickel packages this year..Good thing we recruited extra DB's because as thin and inexperienced as our LB's are, they will need some backup..I have a feeling though that an LB will step up and take charge..My guess would be Propst because I have heard that he has learned the defense really well..I guess we shall see.

Smokey is still on the prowl for an LB to step up and be a leader..

8ball writes:

in response to tlrvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

His life suck..

ArealVolFan writes:

lol at the want to transfer line....not even close to accurate.

givehim6 writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thanks for the info buddy.

movol77 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No he didn't. You did.

movol77 writes:

in response to tlrvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yes, CSS is a sad "dude." ;-)

Huttdawg100 writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think you should look up a guy by the name of Jason Allen. Check his 2003/ 2004 stats. He led the team in tackles from a safety position.

GerryOP writes:

"I'm looking for things to criticize, but I've been pleased with them." Best news I've heard in a long time. It is well...

CoverOrange writes:

Some thoughts for those among us short on imagination and logic. JJ will play safety on every play not requiring the nickel. In those situations, a LB goes out, JJ moves up and somebody comes on to fill his spot. Double switch.

But I don't think that captures it all. I'm thinking JJ will be used like what Monte did with EB. They're just calling it nickel.

tmartin writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yes, that is ludicrous. I mean who ever heard of changing defensive packages based on down and distance?? And even keeping your best players on the field at the same time??? That would almost be like coaching.

OrangePsyched writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Dude you lost all credibility (if you ever had any Mr. Bookie Dude) when you spewed the nonsense of JJ wanting to transfer. CoverOrange, thanks for the clarification to some. CDD,Sirmon,Thompson and Wilcox will get the most out of what they have.

ClearVol writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, GA is loaded with everything but a coach..LOL. I wonder, with all that "talent" down in athens, just how hot his seat really is....

ClearVol writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I think Notre Dame already knows what a "good hire" like weiss can do for your school.. Facts are facts!

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

Well, I see nothing has changed since yesterday...CSS is still obsessed with the same old cr@p that a lot of us have forgotten..Example: allowing 544(or whatever yards) to UAB LAST YEAR..That was LAST YEAR, it's a NEW YEAR for football..Besides, I told you before that you could go to Wilcox and remind him of that game to his face and let him reassure you of whatever you need..He and the other coaches are gonna make you look like a fool in an upcoming year, whether it be this year or next year(that is the year that I think will be the break-out year) or even the next..If you don't think so(which I know you don't), just wait!!

I can understand constructive criticism of these coaches(because I have done my share as other fans have, which is our right as fans), but that is definitely NOT what you do..You run down UT every chance you get even on a positive article..You will twist it around and spin it upside down so much that it is ridiculous and OLD.

Anyone that thinks Vandy is now an "elite" program because they have gotten a couple 4 star athletes or whatever has zero credibilty..Vandy IS and ALWAYS will be a bottom feeder of the SEC.

Smokey says "crawl back in your hole" and don't come out..

osbymartin75 writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

What were the results of the UAB and Vandy games?? Wins I do believe...you are a walking contradiction...you down us for being high on Sirmon with no coaching experience and then talk about what a good hire Muschamp with ZERO head coaching experience is...while talking about stopping saying how good someone will be until its done..see your comment about Muschamp and Weiss... but as always a little research before posting wouldnt have you showing your lack of care about the facts...Sirmon has been coaching since 2008...so thats a little more than no games. We all know what Weiss is capable of..see ND..

UTVOL2001 writes:

There is just something about that UT orange that really just gets me fired up! I must have drank the Kool-aid, right? Tastes good though! GO VOLS! Can't wait to see what comes out on the field!

osbymartin75 writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Actually it is 4 super bowl rings..again simple research..he was 19-6 with Willinghams players..had a couple top ten classes and went 16-21 with them..leading ND to their worst season ever (3-9 in 2007) how many national championships does he have? I'll give you a hint 1 less than....as you put it the losing coach from the WAC. And he also has the same amount of bowl victories as the losing coach from the WAC.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features