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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Jackson indeed ‘1 to Watch’

    California punt returner and wide receiver DeSean Jackson trots toward open field with UA cornerback Antoine Cason right behind him during the Wildcats 24-20 Homecoming win last year at Arizona Stadium. The two played against each other in high school.
    California punt returner and wide receiver DeSean Jackson trots toward open field with UA cornerback Antoine Cason right behind him during the Wildcats’ 24-20 Homecoming win last year at Arizona Stadium. The two played against each other in high school.

    The score was tied at 14 in the second quarter of week one in Berkeley, Calif., when Tennessee punter Britton Colquitt unleashed the perfect punt – a high, hanging 50-yarder.

    The California punt returner probably should have just called for a fair catch.

    A Tennessee defender dove to tackle him as soon as he touched the ball, but the returner danced to his right, evading the tackle. Then he ran even more sideways, then backward, juking five defenders.

    After that, he ran a smooth 77 yards to the end zone – untouched.

    That’s the impact DeSean Jackson has on special teams for the No. 6 Golden Bears, whom the Arizona football team will open conference play against tomorrow.

    “”It’s hard to believe one guy can make seven, eight or nine guys miss him, but he’s the one guy that can probably do it,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops.

    Stoops saw Jackson return a punt last year in Tucson for 95 yards for a touchdown on his way to 226 all-purpose yards, which begs the question: Why kick to him in the first place?

    Jackson called that particular return his favorite as a collegiate athlete.

    “”I’ve been a punt returner since Pop Warner,”” Jackson said. “”That’s just been one of the things I’ve been able to do. I’m the fastest one on my team and always one of the best.

    “”That’s just one of the things, that when they put me back there I let my ability talk for itself.””

    Jackson said the skill is something that can be learned, but more so, a punt returner needs instincts, great vision and speed. He called his return capabilities a “”huge weapon.””

    California head coach Jeff Tedford said he isn’t even surprised with what Jackson does anymore.

    “”DeSean is a very explosive player, no question about it,”” Tedford said. “”When he gets the ball he’s always a threat to go the distance. He’s pretty exciting.””

    On top of his duties as a punt returner, Jackson has an impressive resume as a wide receiver. He’s been Cal’s leading receiver each of his first two seasons.

    Jackson comes into this week with a dislocated thumb. He has been doing light practice all week while wearing a cast.

    “”I’m definitely not 100 percent healthy, but I’m definitely close to ready,”” Jackson said. “”It’s feeling a lot better this week. This week I’ve been doing a lot of things I haven’t been able to do.””

    This is bad news for Arizona.

    Jackson is rated as the No. 1 receiver in the nation by Sporting News magazine and www.rivals.com, as well as the No. 1 special teams player by Rivals.

    He has 23 touchdowns in 27 career games – 16 as a receiver, five as a punt returner and an end-around rush in week two against Colorado State.

    Nearly 20 percent of his career punt returns have gone for touchdowns (6-for-32), with Jackson even scoring on his first collegiate return.

    “”I don’t know if you stop him,”” Stoops said. “”You try to contain him. He’s very electrifying whenever he touches the ball.””

    Jackson is going into tomorrow’s game with a chip on his shoulder. The Bears would have won last year – avoiding the embarrassing upset to Arizona and probably earning a berth in the Rose Bowl -ÿhad he stayed inbounds on a touchdown catch. Officials ruled him out of bounds, and the play was called back.

    “”Looking back at film, it looked like my toe barely, barely touched it,”” Jackson said.

    “”The outcome should have been a little different,”” Jackson added. “”With a couple penalties and a couple setbacks we had in that game, we forced Arizona to get the victory.””

    Regarded as one of the best players in the country, Jackson is one of the early frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy. CSTV even made a Web site for Jackson called “”The 1 to Watch,”” profiling the athlete down to his favorite food.

    With a 4.30 40-yard-dash, Jackson may be the new Deion Sanders.

    “”He’s a lot better than Deion right now, and you can tell him I said that,”” said UA special teams coach Joe Robinson.

    Jackson leads the offense for the Bears, but the unit isn’t short on weapons. At running back, Justin Forsett took over right where Marshawn Lynch left off last season and right where he left off in 2005, when he had 999 rushing yards.

    Through three games, he leads the Pacific 10 Conference in rushing, already gaining 367 yards and five touchdowns and averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

    At quarterback, Nate Longshore is completing two-thirds of his passes, with 617 yards and four touchdowns.

    “”Talent-wise, they have great athletes,”” said Arizona cornerback Antoine Cason, who last year picked off a pass intended for Jackson, returning it for 39 yards and a touchdown to seal the Homecoming victory over the Bears.

    “”You can’t take them lightly, and they’ve shown that they can put up points and do good things,”” he added.

    Jackson played against Cason during high school in Long Beach, calling him a “”great friend of mine.””

    As a junior in high school, Jackson was a last-minute replacement on defense against Cason’s team in the California Interscholastic Federation title game. Jackson had two interceptions, one for a 68-yard touchdown return, in his team’s 21-6 win over Cason’s school.

    Cason said at the Pac-10 media day in July that he got the better of Jackson last year and added Monday that he’s looking forward to the challenge of covering him again.

    “”It’s a different preparation for him,”” Cason said. “”He’s a great receiver that has good speed. You just can’t let him slip by you.””

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