11 tackles (6 solo); 2.5 TFLs; 3 pass deflections
This is the first year Theo Jackson has the full-time starting spot at nickel with the coaches completely behind him. Over his career, he has been Tennessee football’s utility defensive back, filling in wherever necessary but never getting the chance to be named a starter.
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It’s about time Jackson got his due, and at least in his first game, he made the most of it. Jackson did everything. When you have six solo tackles, two and a half tackles for a loss and three pass deflections, it’s safe to say you were all over the field, and nobody on either side of the ball was all over the field more than Jackson.
There was a brief moment in the second quarter when Jackson, along with the rest of the secondary, allowed a couple of big gains on passing plays, which led to the two field goals. However, for the most part, he was elite the whole game.
Jackson didn’t just happen to be in the right place at the right time to rack up his stats. He snuffed out multiple misdirection running plays and had lots of stops right at the line of scrimmage, showing his physical prowess. That was on top of him shutting down most of the passes thrown his way. Simply put, he did everything.
Most of Tennessee football’s performers here seemed to be beneficiaries of Bowling Green’s failures. Jackson is the only guy, though, whose play was impressive in its own right. That’s enough for him to top this list as the player of the game in UT’s opener.