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Jackson eager to get started at Georgia

Former Heard County star continues recovery from injury

By CARTER STRICKLAND

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 01/18/08

Athens It seems like Dontavius Jackson always gets a head start.

How else do you explain his 10-yards-per-carry average as a junior at Heard County High School? OK, talent is one way.

Dontavius Jackson, who rushed for nearly 2,500 yards in his junior year at Heard County High, will compete for playing time at running back with, among others, his roommate Richard Samuel.

But here he is again, a full eight months before Georgia's fall practices begin, already enrolled and readying himself to play. Getting a head start, so to speak.

The way Jackson figures it, he needs one this time. The running back missed almost all of his senior year because he tore the ligaments in his left wrist in the second quarter of the first game. (He had 12 carries for 246 yards before the injury.) Now he has to get that jump-start at Georgia in order to be ready by spring and August.

"My first goal is to get healthy," Jackson said. "I want to get in shape and be healthy around springtime and get a good fit. ... I can't worry about nothing else right now."

When healthy, Jackson turned everybody's head. He rushed for nearly 2,500 yards as a junior. And he started just as strong as he finished. The last game of the regular season against Lamar County, Jackson carried 42 times. He went for 405 yards.

"He's a freak of nature," Heard County coach Tim Barron said. "You have got a player with that ability, you are going to put it in his hands and win with him or lose with him."

Heard County won all of its regular-season games for the first time in 2006. The next year, without Jackson, Heard lost four games.

"I had never had to sit on the sideline during a game, and it was real hard to see your team struggle in certain situations, and if you were out there you could prevent something like that from happening," Jackson said.

Sitting is something the last two phenom running backs to enroll at Georgia have done. Knowshon Moreno redshirted in 2006 before rushing for 1,334 yards in 2007. Caleb King, despite Georgia being down two running backs at one point in the season, redshirted in 2007.

Now they are 1-2 on the depth chart. Shaun Chapas can be the No. 3 tailback but might be better suited for fullback. That means Jackson might have a shot at playing as a freshman.

"I want to play and hope that is everybody's goal coming in that they want to play. But I just have to go and compete," Jackson said.

The competition could be interesting between Jackson and his roommate, Richard Samuel. Samuel comes in more highly rated than Jackson. He also is healthy.

"All of the sudden, two more young men came at the midyear, we have three scholarship tailbacks besides Knowshon that will all be competing," Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

There had been some debate about whether Samuel would play linebacker. But for now, he, Jackson and King are all competing for time.

"We recruited him as a back from the very beginning," Richt said of Samuel. "We do believe he could play linebacker. I am not going to say he could never end up at another spot, but we signed him with the intention of playing [running] back."

That they signed both players and enrolled them early bodes well, Richt said.

"Even if they don't redshirt, they get acclimated to the system and their teammates and college life, and it does give them a chance to compete in the fall a little bit better than if they might have [not enrolled at the midyear]," Richt said.

That was exactly Jackson's motivation. Even before the wrist injury, back in the summer in fact, he looked around and said, "Why wait? Go ahead and get started."

That way you get a head start on everyone else.

Man, I can't wait for this season to start! :P

Go Dawgs!!!

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