Ja’Quinden Jackson adds size, speed and versatility to RB room

By Otis Kirk
on 2024-03-29 11:32 AM

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas has a deep running back room that was helped with the addition of Utah transfer Ja’Quinden Jackson.

Jackson, 6-2, 235, transferred to Arkansas from Utah in January. Jackson comes to Arkansas after leading Utah in rushing in 2023 with 797 yards and four touchdowns on 161 carries. He caught nine passes for 53 yards.

Jackson has already seen a coaching change since arriving at Arkansas. Jimmy Smith left for TCU and Arkansas hired Kolby Smith to take his place. Jackson has enjoyed Smith, Sam Pittman and Bobby Petrino in his time with the Hogs.

“It’s definitely been fun,” Jackson said. “Just meeting new guys, a new program, new coaches. Coach Petrino, Coach Smith, Coach Pittman, they’ve brought me in with open arms and let me know, basically telling me I’m going to be one of the guys to help win. We’ve got some amazing guys on this team, that I feel like we can pull it off this year.”

Smith inherited a deep running back room that includes returning backs Rashod Dubinion, Isaiah Augustave and Dominique Johnson to go with Jackson and true freshman Braylen Russell.

“We got a bunch of guys that are just hungry for knowledge and understanding and trying to grow in the position,” Smith said. “So, you know, they’re working hard every day. My standard for the room is to play with a sense of urgency, understand and know the situation of football and play with toughness and be a physical in every play.”

Despite leading Utah in rushing last year Jackson had to battle injuries. He went into more specific detail on the injury following Tuesday’s practice.

“A lot of people don’t know that I was hurt all last year,” Jackson said. “When I went into the portal, there were a whole lot of jokes, ‘Aw, he’s got paper ankles.’ This and that. 

It was funny. I laughed at it. But people talk about it from the outside looking in. They don’t really know what I had to go through last season for me to get those 700 yards and score touchdowns. It was a struggle every week battling with this injury. Because it went from my ankle to my foot. It was bad.”

Jackson said it wasn’t a high ankle sprain.

“It was a low ankle sprain, then it went to my tendon in my foot,” Jackson said. “And my tendon in my foot kind of came off the bone. So it was something that I really couldn’t do. Like, I had to let it heal. That’s why last year I didn’t play the Oregon State game because it got too bad. I couldn’t walk. So, like I said everybody had their opinion about me but they don’t really know what goes on.”

In addition to the injury woes, Jackson talked about the journey that led him eventually from Duncanville (Texas) High School to some other stops than Arkansas.

“Like my mama told me, everybody’s journey is different,” Jackson said. “Like, some people will be three and done, some people will be five, six. So I’m just taking the journey and staying on the path that God wanted me to be on. I’m just taking it day by day and step by step. 

“The journey has been fun. I’ve met plenty of great guys and we’ve built friendships, brotherhood. It’s been a long journey, but hopefully this year will be my last year in college football. I pray to God it is. Can’t do another fall camp. It’s been great. I’ve loved the journey. The progress has been great.”

Jackson has been impressed with Kolby Smith who came in after Jimmy Smith left for TCU following the second practice.

“Cool guy,” Jackson said. “Cool guy. He definitely knows what he’s talking about when it comes to football. He’s kind of like taking little steps, just trying to get to know everybody. Like today we’re going to have dinner with each other just talking. He’s definitely one of those guys that I could definitely see myself trusting and playing with, I mean under.”

Jackson is one of five scholarship running backs capable of starting on the team. He’s impressed with the depth the Hogs have.

“It’s been great,” Jackson said. “Like you say, it’s a lot of talent in that room. Each and every one of those guys can run the ball, catch the ball. It helps me put my best foot forward every day.”

Quarterback Taylen Green came to Arkansas at midterm from Boise State. While he was from nearby Lewisville, Texas, and Jackson from Duncanville the two weren’t considered close friends.

“We weren’t buddies, but I knew of him because of high schools and playoffs and stuff like that,” Jackson said. “Taylen, he’s doing a great job. Everybody is still learning the playbook, so of course we’re having communication issues a little bit. Not as much, but telling him ‘Tell me when this is such and such.’ But he’s doing an awesome job. Big. Fast. I’ve never seen nobody that tall that can run. He can run. It’s going to be a crazy duo this year.”

Jackson and the Hogs will scrimmage Saturday morning at 9 a.m. and it’s open to the public.

(Last updated: 2024-03-29 11:32 AM)