Nebraska's Jackson Enters RB Competition


As the Packers search to replace longtime running back Ahman Green in 2007, one of the prospects will be from Green's old school.

Nebraska's Brandon Jackson, a first-team all-Big 12 selection last season as a junior, was the Packers' second-round draft choice on Saturday. Jackson was taken 63rd overall, as Green Bay slid down 16 spots from their original second-round position in a trade with the New York Jets.

Green, also a Nebraska product, left earlier this offseason in free agency, and the Packers have now added Jackson to the group of potential replacements that includes Vernand Morency, Noah Herron, Arliss Beach and P.J. Pope.

"He's very instinctive from what I've seen on film," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "There's some carryover from his offense in college to our offense here. He has excellent feet, I think he's a natural runner. You don't see him take too many wasted steps. A very good football player. We're excited to have him."

The Packers are particularly excited about the all-around skills possessed by Jackson, who packs nearly 210 pounds on a 5-9 3/4-inch frame. Last season at Nebraska, he not only rushed for 989 yards on 188 carries (5.3 avg.) with eight TDs, but he added 313 yards receiving on 33 catches (9.5 avg.) with two more TDs, and he showed some abilities in blitz pickup.

That was Jackson's only year as the primary back for the Huskers, as he battled through shoulder problems in 2005 that were healed by 2006. The Packers won't be asking him necessarily to be the featured ballcarrier in 2007, as McCarthy indicated the competition at running back will dictate how the carries become distributed.

"If one individual can carry the load, prove himself to carry the load, then we'll go that way," McCarthy said. "But if not we'll play situations, back-by-committee, however you want to label it. We added a very good player to our running back group. That's the way I view it."

Jackson actually didn't take over as Nebraska's No. 1 back until the sixth game last season. He immediately posted a 100-yard effort, against Iowa State, and went on to rush for 835 yards in the final nine games, an average of nearly 92 yards per game.

"The guy has very instinctive in-line running skills," said McCarthy, noting Jackson continued to climb on the draft board and in the opinion of the team's scouts as the season went along. "The guy makes plays when he ha the ball in his hands, whether it's out of the backfield, on checkdowns, things like that."

An early entry in the draft, Jackson said his decision to forego his senior year at Nebraska was two-fold. In part, he felt he was coming off a strong season and wanted to maximize on that. He also took into consideration financial concerns, noting that his mother Barbara is a diabetic who works a difficult job as a registered nurse in a nursing home and would benefit from his financial support.

{sportsad300}"I want to be there for her because she was there for me throughout everything I've done," Jackson said.

The Packers coaching staff believes Jackson's instincts and natural running ability will make him a quick study at the pro game, and will make up for his somewhat smaller stature. Running backs coach Edgar Bennett told others on the staff he's excited to bring Jackson in and see what he can do, which also included some kickoff returns in college.

"He's a guy who looks like a running back when you watch him on film," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "I don't think you're going to have (to do) a ton of training. I think he has some natural ability that it won't take Edgar three years to teach him how to run the ball.

"Other guys in the draft may be physically bigger, or maybe ran a faster 40, but I don't know if you can teach those guys how to run the football. This kid was probably a good football player when he was 8 years old in the backyard, and hopefully he'll be good when we get him out here on Sundays."

Jackson hopes that happens on the first snap of the first game, though time will tell if that's the role he assumes.

"I have a lot of confidence I can come in and start," he said. "I just have to work hard and earn that position. I'm no stranger to hard work."

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