Blue Chip countdown: No. 13 Josh Jackson

David Goricki
The Detroit News

The Detroit News continues its countdown of the top 15 Blue Chip recruits for 2016 with Josh Jackson of Saline at No. 13.

Josh Jackson was sitting in the coach’s office at Virginia Tech on Wednesday afternoon, celebrating his 18th birthday by watching film of Memphis’ 37-24 win over No. 10 Mississippi.

Jackson committed to Virginia Tech during his senior year at Saline before Frank Beamer, the longtime Hokies’ head coach, announced his retirement.

Well, Memphis coach Justin Fuente replaced Beamer, and Jackson decided to keep not only his commitment, but also his plan to enroll early to get a head start on the competition.

Jackson, the son of former Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson, played the last two years at Saline, where he helped the Hornets to the Division 1 state title game his junior year, then to a 11-0 record before a regional final loss to Canton this past fall.

“I had a great time my senior year,” said Jackson, who graduated with a 3.56 GPA and plans to major in business. “I felt a lot more comfortable, knowing the offense better my senior year, and that made it easier for me to be successful. I felt I improved throwing the ball, my motion was a lot better and my feet was better, too.”

Jackson completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,780 yards and 20 TDs while playing an average of 2 1/2 quarters a game due to blowout victories. He also rushed for 470 yards and eight TDs.

Jackson talked of his highlights, the biggest victories of his senior year.

“Probably my biggest highlight or memory was our comeback win over (Ann Arbor) Pioneer in the district championship game,” Jackson said. “It was a crazy game. They were up on us in the fourth quarter and I threw an interception so it was like, ‘Wow, we’re about to lose.’

“Then, our defense gets a stop to give us the ball for one last chance and we have a good drive and I make a big run to lead to our winning touchdown. It was great because I had played against a lot of those guys in junior football and they had never beaten me in junior football or at Saline, so that game really stands out.

“Oh, and my best game was probably in the season opener against Rockford. Coach (Joe) Palka was on me all week because I wasn’t at my best during practice and then had like five TDs in our win.”

Jackson was at his best in the 37-24 season-opening win over Rockford, completing 25 of 34 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns and running for 97 yards on 12 carries.

So, now it’s on to Virginia Tech, where Jackson started team workouts Tuesday and is taking five classes while making the transition to college life.

“I’ve been ready to go for a long time,” he said. “Sure, I miss my parents, but I was looking forward to college.”

Jackson talked about the coaching change with Fuente coming in and Beamer leaving, along with former Michigan quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, who was the Hokies’ offensive coordinator.

“It was a shock to all of us when Coach Beamer announced his retirement, but it is what it is and they’ve put together a great coaching staff here,” said Jackson, who then talked about the differences in style.

“He (Fuente) runs more of the spread where Coach Loeffler was more under center, more of a pro style. I’m ready to go. I like to throw first, but I can run too.”

And of his father’s help through his football career, Jackson replied: “He was a quarterback at Jackson State, but he didn’t coach me as a quarterback, just taught me how to throw when I was 2. He was my mentor on the mental aspect of the game, told me to always be cool under pressure and play as hard as I could. He was always there for me, supporting me, and I’ll always be thankful of that.”

Sure, Jackson was a Michigan fan growing up while his father coached, but did he ever get an offer from the Wolverines?

“Yes, growing up I wanted to play for Michigan,” Jackson said. “They offered me as an athlete, but I’ve always wanted to play quarterback, and I’m thrilled to be at Virginia Tech.”


No. 13 Josh Jackson, Saline (Virginia Tech)

No. 14 Martell Pettaway, Detroit King (West Virginia)

No. 15 Brad Tanner, Romeo (Western Michigan)