IOWA CITY, Iowa — Alaric Jackson has the frame, tenacity, toughness and determination that Iowa’s coaching staff requires of its offensive linemen.
Perhaps the best part for the redshirt freshman tackle is the Hawkeyes’ veteran offensive linemen see all of those positives, as well.
“He’s got a great maturity level for his age,” Iowa senior guard Sean Welsh said. “He’s really picked up a lot and learned a lot. Just all around he’s made a lot of strides and a lot of improvement in the past year.”
“He’s just really bought in so far which is awesome to see,” Iowa senior tackle Ike Boettger said. “He’s always asking questions, trying to learn more. I think he’s going to be a really good player. He’s already taken what [strength] Coach [Chris] Doyle had for him and really taken that to heart.”
Jackson, 18, entered the Iowa program last summer at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds. By the time he started spring football, Jackson bulked up to 320. As the team enters the conditioning phase, it’s likely Jackson will thin down a few pounds in preparation for the fall.
Iowa offensive line depth chart
|First unit||Second unit|
|LT||Boone Myers, sr.||Alaric Jackson, fr.|
|LG||Keegan Render, jr.||Ross Reynolds, jr.|
|C||James Daniels, jr.||Cole Banwart, fr.|
|RG||Sean Welsh, sr.||Levi Paulsen, so.|
|RT||Ike Boettger, sr.||Lucas LeGrand, jr.|
Perhaps no player is in a more perfect position for future success than Jackson. Iowa returns seven players who have started games up front and only eight total starts are missing from 2016. The group claimed the Joe Moore Award, which is given to the nation’s best offensive line. That allows Jackson — the team’s backup left tackle — ample time to learn and develop behind an experienced unit without the pressure of moving into the lineup.
But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t step in and play if asked to do so.
“I like his grit,” new offensive line coach Tim Polasek said. “He’s an Iowa guy from a toughness standpoint, and me just coming in here and just kind of getting his background in the short time, a 15-minute meeting, man, this guy plays basketball, he’s only played football for X amount of years, you’re just kind of, where is the guy going to be at? Is this a developmental kind of situation? I’m going to be honest with you; he’s a pleasure to be around. He’s a joy to be around. I like his work habits.”
Jackson, a 3-star prospect, attended Detroit Renaissance High School and didn’t play football until late in his high school career. The Hawkeyes started recruiting him before Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin jumped in. The Wolverines made a late run at Jackson, but he committed to Iowa during a 2016 signing day ceremony.
Like all young Iowa linemen, Jackson has room for growth in every area. But his position coach and teammates like the direction with which he’s heading.
“I think that he wants to be great,” Polasek said. “No matter how badly we want kids to excel and to win the Big Ten and all these other things, they have to have a burning desire to want to be great, and I see that with A.J. I don’t know that it’s consistent enough. The part where A.J. can improve is late in practice. Can he be the same guy that he was at the start [of practice] at the end of practice? He’s one of those young guys that is providing some potential that we’re going to need come middle of September, middle of October.”
“He makes marked improvement every time if we enter a different phase or get out of it,” Welsh said. “He’s a great guy. He’s a great kid. I think he’s going to add value to the program.”