It was more than two years ago that Oakley (Calif.) Freedom hosted Turlock (Calif.) to open their 2016 campaign. Just before halftime, quarterback Jonathan Pierce dropped back and found Giles Jackson splitting two defenders down the seam for a touchdown, giving their team a 27-0 lead.
Jackson, then a sophomore, was about to become a major playmaker for his team. The following week, he caught three touchdowns against Tracy and never looked back.
Fast forward to today and Jackson is now a senior, rated as a four-star recruit by the 247Sports Composite, and has just committed to the University of Michigan.
Despite that early success as a sophomore, Jackson’s recruitment did not take off right away. He was overshadowed some by Ronnie Rivers, who signed with Fresno State in the 2017 class, but had a big season as a junior when he moved from wideout into Rivers’ tailback spot.
Still, it was not until spring camps, where he earned an invitation to The Opening Finals and then posted a 138.36 Nike Football Rating at The Opening Finals (which put him in the 99th percentile of testing results) that he rose to national prominence.
“Until mid-June, his only FBS offer was San Jose State,” 247Sports recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman said. “He had Howard and Seton Hill. When he got invited to The Opening Finals, he had those three offers, then Oregon offered him, then Oregon State, the he goes to USC’s camp, Michigan offers and then USC. After The Opening, Colorado and Florida offered, then Cal after the dead period.”
Jackson took an official visit to Michigan at the end of June. At that time, Michigan was climbing in the race, but as fall approached, most analysts out west believed he would stay in Pac-12 country. But as Jackson approached a decision, the memory of the Michigan visit, the Wolverines’ persistence, and his friendship with his 7-on-7 quarterback and Michigan commit Cade McNamara all moved the needle back toward the Maize and Blue.
"I knew about a week ago that Michigan was the place for me," Jackson said. “They offer everything I need to be successful in life, plus they were the only school that had my major out of all the others, and the coaching staff at Michigan is great.”
Jackson did admit the distance from home initially gave him reservations, which he eventually reconciled before choosing the Wolverines.
That's good news for Michigan, which is stockpiling offensive weapons in this class. Between Jackson, running back Zach Charbonnet and all-purpose back Eric Gray, Michigan has three dynamic playmakers.
“(Jackson) is the kind of explosive athlete who can score from anywhere on the field,” 247Sports’ Greg Biggins said. “He showed off his athleticism at The Opening testing off the charts with a 4.43-40, 3.85 shuttle and a 38 (inch) vertical jump. And he is one of the most competitive players around. He should be a fan favorite because of his style of play and his big-play potential, and if he's used right in the offense, he'll be a major headache for opposing coordinators to deal with.”
As a junior, Jackson finished with 1,586 yards and 22 touchdowns rushing. He caught 21 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns as well.
5-star official visitor this weekend
Daxton Hill, the nation’s No. 1 safety, will be in Ann Arbor this weekend for his official visit with Michigan.
The Tulsa (Okla.) Booker T. Washington senior, has 26 offers, but the race is widely considered to be between the Wolverines and Alabama, although in-state programs Oklahoma and Oklahoma State remain in the hunt, along with Ohio State and Clemson.
He does not have any additional official visits scheduled, but plans to take more during the fall before making a decision towards the end of his senior season or just after.
Allen Trieu covers Midwest football recruiting for 247Sports. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at detroitnews.com.