Florida’s Jackson working his way into starter’s role at inside linebacker

Florida linebacker Rayshad Jackson. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

On the day Rayshad Jackson signed with Florida back in 2015, the doubters quickly latched onto the lightly recruited prospect from Miami and haven’t let go, their number only growing over the course of his time in Gainesville.

Now, heading into his redshirt junior season, Jackson is lining up to shoo away all those doubters, and shut them up for good.

“I’m excited to prove all the doubters wrong,” he said.

Jackson is in a position to do that now.

After seeing most of his playing time on special teams in his first two seasons, Jackson is now looking at getting serious and substantial reps on defense following a strong spring, a good summer and an even better preseason camp so far.

Jackson is getting a lot of snaps with the No. 1 defense. Even if he doesn’t start, he’s solidly in the playing rotation at both inside linebacker spots.

He’s earned it.

“He’s doing a great job,” linebackers coach Christian Robinson said. “He’s a guy that listens and puts in extra time. I’m very similar to him. I like to watch tape, I like to talk about what’s going on and just, ‘Hey, what would happen if this happened?’ He cares. If you’ve got a roomful of guys that care you’re going to be successful.”

Jackson has cared all along, even when he wasn’t seeing much, if any, playing time on defense. He kept working hard in practice, sometimes on the scout team, and kept hustling and making plays on special teams, where his athleticism and striking ability made him a key player.

Then Jackson really started to care when coach Dan Mullen and his staff took over the program. The arrival of a new coaching staff meant a new chance for Jackson, and he grabbed it and ran with it in the spring.

“During the off time before the spring I had to sit down and evaluate myself,” he said. “In spring, it was a new defense, it was new to everybody. I had to take advantage and progress. And that’s what I did.”

Jackson made a good early impression on Robinson and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham with his hustle and instincts, and things have kind of progressed from there.

He pushed the starters for playing time last spring and eventually ended up seeing practice time with the starting defense. He’s pushing for a starting role now at inside linebacker alongside junior David Reese.

“Rayshad has done a great job of getting in the playbook and just attacking it,” Reese said. “He is going to be the guy that’s going to put in the extra time and do what he needs to do in order to get on the field. As long as he knows what he has to do he is more than capable of making plays on the field.”

Jackson definitely knows what to do on the field. He buries himself in Grantham’s defensive playbook for hours every day, even now during preseason camp.

“All the time, every night, every time after practice, in the morning,” he said. “About eight hours a day.”

Jackson knew the old playbook well, also. But that wasn’t enough to convince the former coaching staff to play him much on defense.

He said the former coaches were among his doubters.

“It was not so discouraging, it was just sad because I knew I could play,” Jackson said. “But they didn’t trust me. That’s it.

“I guess the last coaching staff, in my opinion, they didn’t trust me enough to play me. The new coaching staff, they trust me and I can go play now.”

Even though Jackson will be getting his chance to play on defense this fall, he hasn’t forgotten where he came from. He’ll continue to play on special teams.

That’s the kind of player he is — a team player,” Robinson said.

“I just see him wanting to give his best for the team. I see him trying to want to be his best and be a part of this linebacking corps and contribute.

“I told everybody if you think you’re going to play all 90 reps, you’re kidding yourself. I’d like to have a room full of guys playing 30 reps and maybe having some younger guys get in there when we do what we’re supposed to do. I see him not kind of stressing out, he’s just trying to be a part of the group and be the best he can be.”



    • LT. That was one of the dumbest posts about college football I have ever read. I bet there are a bunch of players starting in the NFL right now that did not see the field much in college before their redshirt junior years. And I bet there are some that are going to start this year for your favorite team over there in Tallahassee as well.

      • Arguably the greatest player ever, Tom Brady, didn’t see the field until his Junior year. He was buried so far down the depth chart, 7th at one point, that he hired a sports psychologist to help him cope with frustration and anxiety. He actually considered transferring to Cal. LT clearly knows nothing about college football.

    • Because Taven Bryan was a RS junior who had a break out year and was just drafted in the first round… your an idiot. This man is underrated and if the coaches give him the opportunityto be a starter they might find out he has a lot of potential.

        • Dave P – that’s why I really enjoy this site. No holding back on people that may deserve a lashing…lol. I try to refrain from name calling, but I would be lying if I didn’t chuckle sometimes when others do. Maybe that makes me a bit of a hypocrite, but funny is funny. GO GATORS!!!

          • Ed, I think DaveP was more referring to them using the word “your” meaning possession in lieu of “you’re” meaning you are AND then calling someone else an idiot…even though, yes, LT is an idiot.

            Also, well done Mr. Jackson for never giving up and working harder than everyone else to get to where you are. I love hearing stories like this. Instead of sulking and blaming others for his circumstances the young man pulled up his socks and got to work. That’s a Gator I’m PROUD to cheer for! Go Gators!!

    • LOL…he said this with his chest out too. Poor guys thought he dropped some heat!! LMAO!

      I don’t who you got your knowledge of ball from hoss….but you need not post on anymore sites unless you wish to continue to show just how green you are. What a dumb post…but thanks for identifying yourself!

  1. Loving what I read about Rayshad Jackson – thinking Moon will move to DE, and with the new defensive scheme, the Gators will often have four LBs on the field. The Gator LBs were thin and not experienced (overall) the past two seasons. Yes, Rayshad was not “highly regarded”, flying under the radar when he was recruited. But from the looks of it, he has grown into a stud LB who can get the job done on multiple levels. I am very glad that Rayshad is not only on our team, but will be contributing in a major way this year – our turnaround year! Thank you for your hard work, your discipline and your team mentality! GO GATORS!!! p.s. Ignore LT – I grew up in Gainesville, am 62 years old – been a Gator fan since I was 13 years old. Watched the ups and downs. I am the “real McCoy” – you are definitely an asset (LT is not).

    • Absolutely, Glen……I like this young man’s attitude too. I think he and others have a much better set of eyes on them now, and will come alive where they were previously withering.

      It’s hard to know who’s side LT’s on sometimes — no doubt he’s a Gator, but I don’t get him.

      • Glen. Moon will be in the rotation with Jefferson, Polite, Clayton, and Chatfield at the hybrid OLB/DE position. Moon will also play the other OLB position, along with Johnson, Smith, and Reese ll. Putting those guys with Reese l, Jackson, Joseph, Miller, Houston, Sanders, and Brunson inside and this deep is remarkably different at LB this year vs. last year. A lot of talent and a lot of depth.

        • Not every unpleasant response makes someone a troll, and I’ve seen too many rather sound comments by LT that suggest otherwise. Of course there’s a chance he is, and likewise a chance that he isn’t. I’ve seen more than a few good men run off this site by the troll label, when in fact they simply held a different opinion and were Gators notwithstanding that (Mike, GatorG, Tim come to mind, although I admit that LT is frequently more unpleasant).

          So how about it LT? What’s your background? How about becoming a member? Show something that convinces everyone that you’re who you say you are? (That’s apparently what convinced everyone that I wasn’t a troll). Better hurry man, because in 17 days and a wake up, not even I will give a damn one way or the other.

      • 6 and all. Our coaching was so bad I’m sure the guys that didn’t play were not talented enough. NOT A CHANCE! I think the buffoons coaching couldn’t coach and wouldn’t have recognized talent if it smacked them upside their collective heads. Top to bottom the ineptness we suffered not correct the players suffered was unfair to them. We didn’t see a good football product but these young men paid for it, their future/futures may have paid for it. With their new staff they have ask opportunity to prove the naysayers wrong. I as one of the fans think if Mullen is letting them talk to the press he is comfortable with his message.

        • How many of our former players do you think regret coming to UF because of the empty promises and unfulfilled potential due to lack of credible coaching? Our current players are jumping for joy that McElFraud and Duncemeier are gone.

          • So true my friend. There where several the last couple years that I know must have thought what did I get myself into. The ones that got into off field trouble may not have if there’d been direction and guidance. Maybe they still would have but as a whole team they lacked ___________ the list is long. I wonder how many missed the draft because no one was willing to take a chance on them.

          • One other thing here is I wonder how many assistants got a raw deal from the HC and Nuss? I was expecting more from Shannon but maybe he wasn’t allowed to coach as needed. Just seems we have the whole package now. Hope so. Go Gators!

      • Mike Winter and his aliases is just lame stuff.

        My thing is…Gator or not…post away…but you will be challenged by the group if you come with nonsense. He could be a Nole with a UGA wife and Tennessee Grad as a dad for all I care.

    • Glenn Rayshad sounds like he could be like another not very “highly regarded” LB that no one wanted who Shannon coached at UM and is now considered the greatest to ever play the position. He wasn’t offered a scholarship till 4 days before signing day and it was his only division 1 scholarship. The only reason he was noticed is because the coaches were at his last game to see another player. His name is Ray Lewis. We can only hope he turns out to be that good.

  2. Some guys just take longer to develop than others. If he is giving good effort and gets results on the field on Saturdays then give the kid a shot. He could have transferred to a smaller school so he at least has the want to, now he has to prove he has the can do. Its a new regime and everybody starts even so lets see if he takes advantage of the chance. Have to like his attitude though so I wish him luck and hope he comes through.

    • I remember in the iowa bowl game, the last good game I saw, new years 2017, we had a walk-on starting at linebacker (I thought he did pretty well too), so we are moving up if recruiting rankings matter! I don’t think a ranking of an 18 year old athlete is really all that reliable, 20 and 21 is a little more reasonable, and really the nfl needs a player to be 24 based on what ive read to have a fairly reliable assessment of elite talent. what ive read here sounds pretty positive to me, in that the coach has confidence in him. I wish the coach was more experienced so we could be more confident, but I will be happy if this guy makes a leap to a top tier player.

      • also, this guy has never had a blemish. sure we have a “talented” player behind him that has had some police issues, but linebacker is a position where reliability is huge. imo we’ve got to give him every chance before we give plays to a more risky athlete in a high stress situation, and even then, so long as we don’t have a weak link, this would be my preferred starter at this point. in time the better athlete may work out, but add the police issue risk to injury risk, and all of the other distractions, the choice may not be as simple as it sounds

  3. I’d love for this guy to do well!

    However I am also on board with all the homer nonsense during summer! These days we hear how awesome everyone is, in November we will hear how it’s a process and it takes time, four years from now we will hear about how the staff were bums And had issues as we are welcoming a new staff. It’s the cycle. I’ve never heard so much excitement for a career 0.500 Coach. Hopefully he does good, but national championships are probably not imminent.

    • How is Mullen a .500 coach? He went 69 – 46 at Mississippi State. I’m not good at the numbers but that’s better than .500. Oh, and he did it at MISSISSIPPI STATE! Have you ever been there? I guarantee you’ll only go once…

    • Joesph you act like he was coaching at a blue blood program where winning is easy. MSU was the laughingstock of the SEC and an annual doormat before he took over. Now they’re nationally ranked and a respectable program that everyone is picking to beat the Gators this year. MSU has only been to 21 bowl games in its 123 year history. Mullen was responsible for taking them to 8 of them in 9 seasons. He’s got the highest winning percentage of any coach in history and only needed 7 more wins to have the most wins in history. He would’ve done it in 9.5 seasons when it took Sherrill 13 years to do it. He may not have had the greatest conference record playing in the toughest division is college football, but he was highly competitive with half the talent of his competitors he was facing every week. You can bet for damn sure coaches like Saban and Miles didn’t go into that matchup thinking it was going to be a cakewalk. Gator fans are excited because we know he’s going to get the talent at UF that will put him on an even playing field, and if he can accomplish what he did at a program like MSU with the talent he was able to attract there, then he should easily accomplish far more here. There’s no reason to believe championships aren’t imminent.

  4. joseph Jonas brothers. Best head coach in Mississippi State’s long history of playing football. That would be Mullen. OC for two national titles as well for the Gators. I get very excited about knowing he is now back coaching my Gators for my university.

  5. Jeez! You guys complain when we have too many negative stories, you guys complain that we have too many Homer/Sunshine pumping stories. I’m starting to think some of you just want to complain! How about take these stories for what they are, which is filler until the season starts. Some of these guys may never get a story or a headline again, so let them get something to print out and add to the scrapbook.