Donte Jackson realizes there’s a certain double standard that comes with playing defensive back at LSU.
The self-proclaimed ‘DBU’ moniker (Defensive Back University) makes the Tigers a sought after program for elite high school defensive backs. It’s why Jackson chose LSU and why he wants opposing offenses to test his abilities. Through almost two full seasons in Baton Rouge, the Tigers cornerback feels he’s proven his worth.
But when Jackson was the victim of a 98-yard touchdown pass in a 16-10 loss to No. 13 Florida on Saturday, the tone of fans changed. He acknowledges he’s young, so it’s difficult for him to ignore backlash he’s received on social media.
“For me personally, it motivates me,” Jackson said. “Just last week they’re calling me one of the best corners in the country, and then this week I need to get my scholarship revoked.”
With veteran defensive backs like Jamal Adams and Tre’Davious White, Jackson was the somewhat unknown commodity in the Tigers’ starting secondary. He played in all 12 games last season but started only once: LSU’s 56-27 win against Texas Tech in the 2015 Texas Bowl.
He’s become accustomed to being targeted by quarterbacks; he led the team with 41 targets entering the Florida game, according to cfbflimroom.com. Asked if he thinks No. 22 Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3) will go after him at 6:30 p.m. Thanksgiving, Jackson embraced the idea.
“If you’re going to let one game determine your quarterback’s success, go ahead. Have at it,” Jackson said. “I’ve been very consistent this year. So I hope so. I’m looking forward to it.”
The 98-yard touchdown, hauled in by Gators wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland against man-to-man coverage, was a product of poor technique, Jackson said. Instead of closing out on his man, the speedy sophomore said he tried to make a play on the ball, which he said is sometimes a problem for him.
Jackson wouldn’t place blame on not having help from a safety. Ultimately, he has to make the tackle, he said.
“Our safeties know the type of guys they have on the outside,” Jackson said. “They’re not always going to be able to get there. But I still put that on myself. I got to win. It isn’t on the safety. I just got to win. I can’t let that play happen.”
As a sprinter on LSU’s track and field team, Jackson doesn’t concern himself with the speed of the receiver across from him. In fact, he doesn’t pay much attention to which receiver he’s lined up against because White and Jackson don’t follow receivers around on the field.
However, Jackson recognizes the depth and consistency of the Aggies receiving corps, highlighted by Josh Reynolds and Christian Kirk. Reynolds and Kirk have combined for 1,569 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns this season.
Facing a spread offense in a short week makes moving on from the error against Florida easier, Jackson said.
“They’re going to be throwing the ball, so I have a lot of chances put that one pass — that one pass — behind me and just move on,” Jackson said. “Like I said, I got to win. I got to win on that play. Point blank. Just got to win.”
‘I turned right into it’
Jackson’s mishaps against Florida didn’t end with Cleveland’s 98-yard touchdown, as he fumbled a kickoff return in the fourth quarter.
But fullback J.D. Moore, whom Jackson ran into on the return, acknowledged he is as much responsible for that as Jackson.
“I should have been out of the way,” Moore said.
Moore, who serves as one of the blockers on LSU kickoff return team, is taught to come “hip to hip” with Foster Moreau to double-team one of the kickoff team’s gunners. Gators defensive back Chauncey Gardner, the gunner in this case, ran right toward Moore and Moreau but then veered wide at the last moment, causing Moreau and Moore to turn with him.
“Where there was a hole in Donte’s vision,” Moore said, “I turned right into it.”
Jackson didn’t lose the ball immediately when he ran into Moore, so Jackson attempted to gain ground.
“When I ran into him, I was trying to get back into the gap, and the ball just popped out my hand,” Jackson said. “I lost that one. It is what it is.”
Aggies giving back
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Texas A&M is putting aside its football rivalry with LSU to give back.
Spearheaded by student body president Hannah Wimberly and executive vice president Dan Rosenfield, Texas A&M has launched a fundraising campaign to raise money for LSU students, faculty and staff members who were affected by the Louisiana flooding.
The campaign, known as "Side by Side," will accept donations up until kickoff of Thursday night's game. A check will then be presented to LSU likely in the first quarter, Rosenfield said.
You can donate to "Side by Side" at www.sidebyside.tamu.edu.