In football, it can become easy to forget about the big guys on the line.
But in the SEC, a strong front-line on both sides of the ball is a necessary component if a team is to have any sustained success. This was evident last year after Kentucky made huge strides on the offensive and defensive line that translated into winning 10 games and the Citrus Bowl.
And they were led by the big man in the middle.
- Position: Center
- Measurements: 6-2, 313 pounds
- Hometown: Versailles, Ky.
- School: Woodford County
- Recruiting ranking: 141st nationally (247 Sports)
Drake Jackson will enter his junior season with tremendous experience. As a matter of fact, the 6-2, 313 pound center has now made 20 consecutive starts, including all 13 games last year.
As impressive as that is, it really should come as no surprise to anyone who followed Jackson’s decorated high school career. He picked Kentucky over some of the top programs in America, including the Alabama Crimson Tide and Florida Gators just to name a few.
Jackson was ranked the #1 center by 247 Sports and has lived up to the hype as an underclassman. He will now begin his junior campaign with extremely high expectations for himself and the team.
Jackson’s impact on the offensive line is difficult to quantify, but there are some stats to back up his contributions. Last season, UK’s offense averaged 41 rush attempts per game that produced 4.9 yards per carry and an average of 2.1 touchdowns a game.
Obviously, Benny Snell is no longer wearing the blue and white, but the Kentucky Wildcats still boast a terrific offensive line that features not only Jackson but also a potential All-American in Logan Stenberg. The Cats will also be filling the void that former All-American Bunchy Stallings will be leaving behind.
Even without the services of Benny Snell, the 2019 Cats will still have some legitimate big play threats in the backfield. AJ Rose is lightning quick and has the shiftiness to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Jackson opening up holes for running plays and effective pass-blocking for screen passes will allow Rose and others to find space.
Eddie Gran and his staff were extremely run-centric with the play-calling a season ago. It’s not for sure whether or not the team will attempt to rush the ball with the same frequency as 2018, but I think most fans are hopeful that Terry Wilson will find his stride and open up the passing game more than we saw in his first season in Lexington.
But either way, the leadership and consistency that Jackson brings to the offense is of critical importance if Kentucky is to once again compete for the SEC East title. And even national media are giving him the props he deserves.
MY top 5 SEC centers for 2019:— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) June 28, 2019
1) Drake Jackson- Kentucky
2) Lloyd Cushenberry- LSU
3) Daryl Williams- Mississippi State
4) Trystan Colon-Castillo- Mizzou
5) Trey Hill- UGA
The term “glue guy” is used a lot in sports, and I think that the junior center fits that description very well. From all indications around the football program, Jackson is a leader on and off the field. As a local guy, he is also a fan favorite and someone that will be truly missed when his time at UK ends.
But for now, the Big Blue Nation gets to enjoy the services of one of their own for at least one more season.