Sam Jackson, an All-Area first-team selection in the fall and one of the most coveted rising seniors in Manatee County, brought his recruitment to an early conclusion Monday when he verbally committed to Central Florida.
The Lakewood Ranch tackle, who else held offers from Miami, South Florida and Florida A&M, is the first player from the Class of 2017 to commit to a Division I program. The pledge will not become binding until Jackson signs a National Letter of Intent, which cannot be done until National Signing Day on Feb. 1.
Still, Jackson is firm in his commitment. The offensive lineman made a day trip to Orlando in order to commit to UCF and first-year head coach Scott Frost in person. Jackson was primarily recruited by running backs coach Ryan Held and offensive line coach Greg Austin. He posted a photo with the three coaches and assistant director of player personnel Ryan Callaghan on Twitter to announce his commitment.
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Jackson visited the Knights earlier this spring when Mustangs head coach Mic Koczersut took Jackson and a handful of teammates to Orlando to watch UCF spring practice. He got to meet the staff in a more informal setting than a junior day and got a feel for how the coaches operate.
“He felt real comfortable with the coaching staff there at spring practice. He really wants to stay in Florida,” Koczersut said. “Sam really liked the recruiting process at UCF, really felt comfortable with the coaches there and how they do things.”
Jackson is considered a three-star recruit by 247sports' composite rankings, which form an aggregate assessment by averaging rankings from other major recruiting services. The composite lists Jackson as the No. 234 player in Florida and No. 139 tackle in the nation.
The 6-foot-6, 310-pound lineman helped pave the way for one of the county's best rushing offenses in 2015 despite inconsistent quarterback play. Behind Jackson, running back Justin Fischer ran for 1,072 yards, the third most in the area during the regular season. Koczersut credited Jackson with 30 pancake blocks.
Jackson was also a silver medalist in the discus throw in Class 7A during the spring and is a member of the Mustangs basketball team, which fell one game short of the 7A semifinals. Jackson said he’s open to throwing in college if the Knights grant him the opportunity, but it also provided a unique connection with Frost. Carol Frost, the head coach’s mother, was an Olympian in the discus, so Frost and his staff value athletes who compete in multiple sports. Jackson’s three-sport resume is as good as anyone else in his class in the area.
“I always have stuff I have to work on,” Jackson said, “but they say they really like my athleticism and just being confident.”