When classes resume Thursday at the University of Tennessee for the second session of summer semester, Janzen Jackson will be back behind a desk and back on a path toward playing football in 2011.
Jackson, the athletically gifted Tennessee safety who withdrew from school in February because of "personal issues," is enrolled for classes and back with the Vols, UT announced Wednesday.
According to a brief release from the UT athletic department, Jackson is expected to be a "full participant" when practices begin in August.
One of the Vols’ most talented players on a depth-deprived defense, Jackson left the team temporarily in December before returning in time for the Music City Bowl. After returning for the first few weeks of spring semester, Jackson then left on a full-time basis.
"His leaving for bowl practice was not a punishment, and as long as he continues to manage his personal issues and football and school, he’s going to be welcomed back in the program," coach Derek Dooley said at the time. "He’s clearly reached a point where the personal issues have become much greater than his ability to manage workouts and school."
Jackson, a Lake Charles, La., native, remained in Knoxville throughout the spring. UT spokesman Jimmy Stanton said Jackson held a part-time job during the spring semester doing maintenance for the school’s various athletics facilities.
Stanton said Jackson was paid the normal student-worker rate for work performed.
Jackson should be immediately eligible to compete and UT does not need to fill out any extra paperwork with the NCAA. Per NCAA bylaw 18.104.22.168, a student-athlete who misses a complete term or consecutive terms can qualify for a "missed-term exception" as long as he or she is still on a suitable timeline to graduate.
Jackson’s UT career, which began in 2009 as one of the top prospects in Lane Kiffin’s only recruiting class, has been filled with highs and lows.
He earned playing time right away and took over as a starter alongside Vols great Eric Berry just two games into his freshman season. But Jackson found trouble in embarrassing fashion near the end of that season, as he was one of three Vols arrested for an alleged attempted armed robbery. The charges levied against him were eventually dropped and he was the only player in the group to remain with the team.
Jackson also had an additional suspension for violation of team rules handed down during his freshman season, but he seemingly turned over a new leaf while playing under Dooley.
Now a junior, Jackson has started 22 games in his UT career and picked up a team-high five interceptions last season. He was named to the SEC All-Freshman team in 2009 and was a second-team All-SEC player last season.
Jackson’s return should boost a UT secondary that is suddenly flush with bodies. The group didn’t lose any major contributors from last season and seven of UT’s 2011 signees are listed as defensive backs.
Throughout the spring, many players expressed their hopes that Jackson would eventually return to the team, but were prepared to move on without him.
"When Janzen comes back, we’re all in and we’ll gladly take him back in," junior cornerback Marsalis Teague said. "We need Janzen at the safety spot but we got guys that are stepping up and contributing well so right now we’re focused on what we do have right now."
Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble