Janzen Jackson, 6-foot-1, 185 pounds
ESPN 150 Watch List cornerback
Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
When first viewing ESPN 150 Watch List prospect Janzen Jackson (Lake Charles, La./Barbe) on film, his highly-coveted blend of size and speed at the corner position immediately opened our eyes. Surprisingly, the further we watched this talented prospect, it was his polished fundamentals at the high school level that actually drew the highest praise.
Jackson is one the better form-tacklers in this class, an attribute often overlooked in today's up-tempo game. Aside from his tackling, his overall technique at the position is just as advanced and impressive.
The LSU-bound defensive back has been crafting his skills at the position for quite some time under the tutelage of a certain defensive backs coach with a special relationship to the 6-foot-1 corner -- his father Lance Guidry.
Guidry, in his second stint as an assistant coach at FCS power McNeese State, started training his son at an early age on the nuances of the position. Judging by his performance on film, the 2009 Under Armour All-American was a quick learner.
"I use to live with my dad during the summers and attended the football camps at McNeese State when I was only in grade school," recalled Jackson.
It was at those camps Jackson began transforming himself from a fine athlete into a promising corner. The extra work on the field with his father coupled with the competition against older players helped his development and much-needed confidence at the position. Work beyond the McNeese practice fields during the hot Louisiana summer nights in their own backyard proved equally beneficial.
"I was always just an offensive skill player because I think that is where the better athletes on a team usually play," recalled Jackson. "My dad is the one who turned me into a DB and took the time to teach me how to play the position."
Jackson's summer visits soon evolved into a permanent stay with his father during seventh grade. Jackson admits he was at an impressionable age when a fulltime father-figure was needed and the football mentoring was actually just a bonus. The maturation process quickly accelerated both on and off the field for the elite cornerback prospect.
However, it was perhaps an unselfish coaching move by his father that may have molded Jackson into the highly-coveted cornerback prospect we see today.
Guidry decided to step down from his role as McNeese State's defensive coordinator and secondary coach to accept the head coaching job at Carencro High School prior to Jackson's enrollment. He could not pass up the opportunity to coach and have a direct influence on his son during his high school career.
Like most father and son coaching relationships, Jackson said his dad treated him just like any other player on the Carencro roster. There was actually more criticism than praise at times, and Jackson even acknowledged his father's head coaching role often reduced the individual DB training to which he was accustomed.
However, Jackson said what he missed on physical teaching he soaked up in mental critique and advice around the house. Although he never pushed football on his son, Guidry was forthcoming in helping him improve weaker areas of his game in order to fulfill his goals of playing at the D-I level. He often used his former corners at McNeese State as examples, accentuating the positive and negatives of their play. The two main areas Jackson recalls his dad working with him on are actually his better attributes today on film, a direct testament to a coach's sharp teaching and player's desire to excel.
"I use to just come up for the big hit without wrapping up. I was not a good open-field tackler," recalled Jackson.
Guidry boldly stated to his son that his D-I dreams may be just that if he did not start improving the weaker area of his game college scouts often scrutinized. The advice was simple, yet effective, and still seems to be implanted in Jackson's head today with how quickly he reiterated it.
"The feet and the head will move but the hips won't," recalled Jackson referring to a corner's concentration on the ball carrier's hips to make the reliable, open-field tackle.
Guidry also advised his star corner to quit looking for the big hits -- they would eventually come -- and concentrate on the making the tackle.
As Jackson looks back, tackling was always important in his father's eyes but no one attribute took precedence over good hips. The fluid corner quickly and methodically spouted out a similar, catchy coaching phrase implanted in his brain.
"If you can't turn your hips, you can't turn and run," said Jackson, referring to a corner with elite speed who still struggles in coverage because of stiffness.
Jackson's father made another unselfish move this year opting to return to McNeese State instead of coaching his son for his senior season. The change will also take Jackson to Lake Charles and Barbe High School. Guidry thought it would be better for his son to play for another coach aside from his father before transitioning to the college level.
From what we have seen from junior evaluations, the coach/father has done a great job preparing his son for next level of football. The LSU Tigers are getting a polished in-state corner both on and off the field.
Jackson's Scouts Inc. Evaluation
Jackson is a rare defensive back prospect who combines safety size and physicality with cover corner speed and quickness. He is tall, athletically-built and utilizes his size well in both run and pass support.
Shows smooth footwork in his pedal and transitions very quickly breaking on plays in front of him. Flashes exceptional burst and plant-and-drive skill closing the cushion. Combines excellent anticipation skills with rare closing speed and explosiveness in space to undercut routes or flatten receivers. Generates great power in the short area and is a devastating hitter. Flashes good skills in deep zone coverage tracking and bursting under the football; possesses excellent ball skills and is a threat with the football in his hands. Great pass defender but could possess even better run support skills. Displays excellent range, pursues with sharp angles and can use either his upper-body strength to fight through the stalk-block or slip it with great quickness. Excels at setting the edge and containing the run.
A textbook tackler who breaks down in space and drives through ball carriers with rare force. Allowed to freelance a bit and will need to polish up his man-to-man and press technique, but he is a gifted athlete and should give his future defensive coordinator great scheme versatility with his excellent instincts and ability to play both safety and corner. A legit threat on special teams blocking kicks with his first-step quickness and burst off the edge.
Jackson is an excellent defensive back prospect with a supreme blend of size, speed and physicality.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.