Eric Jackson picked up his first two college scholarship offers from Football Bowl Subdivision schools this week and it did not matter to the Apopka defensive lineman that the schools aren’t exactly on the map of who’s who in college football.
“It feels great,” said Jackson, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound end who will likely wind up playing linebacker in college. “I was excited to hear about it. I got UNC-Charlotte [Wednesday] and already had Texas State.”
He talked with Charlotte inside linebackers coach Drew Drayton this week upon receiving the offer from the 49ers, who will be playing their first football season this year. Charlotte will play as a Football Championship Subdivision independent team during its first two NCAA "probationary" seasons and then will be become an FBS member and be eligible for bowl games in 2015 as part of Conference USA.
“[Drayton] told me about the school and about the spring game and showed me pictures of how packed it was at their stadium and all of that,” Jackson said of Charlotte's new stadium, which is set up to be able to expand to 40,000 seats.
Jackson, whose first offer came from in-state FCS member Florida A&M, said several schools have shown interest in his services. As for Texas State, located in San Marcos, the Bobcats will begin their first full FBS schedule this season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.
“Spring has been going great and I’m just working on getting better and better every week … way better, he said. “Recruiting has been going all right. I felt like as soon as I got the FAMU offer that I would start getting a few more. I thought my film was pretty good and college coaches started looking at that.
“I’m just very excited. Just getting an offer was very exciting for me.”
As is the case many times on Coach Rick Darlington’s Apopka teams, players will lineup in positions best suited for the Darters’ success. It doesn’t always mean their high school position is the same spot they will play in college.
Most coaches are talking to Jackson, who is ranked No. 28 in the Sentinel's 2014 Central Florida Super60, about playing outside linebacker at the next level and he has decent speed to be able to work the outside edges. Jackson runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash.
“That’s pretty much how it goes at Apopka. We play where we are needed and we fill where the coaches see fit to make us successful," Jackson said. "I like playing defensive end but I also like linebacker."
His bookend counterpart at the other defensive end position is Isaiah Buehler, who is ranked No. 32 in the Super60, another Blue Darter with an FBS scholarship offer. Buehler’s first offer came from FIU, and he is also being recruited by UCF.
“We have a great friendship,” Jackson said of Buehler, and the rest of his teammates, who usually take Wednesday off from practices, and instead, participate in a group Bible study session.
"It helps us bond together as a team and become brothers," Jackson said.
He said he is also good friends with Blue Darters defensive tackle Anthony Ellis, ranked No. 14 in the Super60, and the trio have a little fun with a sack competition between them.
“We had that during the season last year,” Jackson said of the sacks. “Anthony got the most sacks last year .”
The Darters will have a big target on their backs this season coming in as the defending Florida Class 8A state champions.
“Another state championship, that’s what we’re working for,” Jackson said. “It’s gonna be difficult but we’ll pull through. Spring has been good. It doesn’t feel different. Just the same stuff as usual.”
Apopka will host Winter Haven in its spring game May 31.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.