The 2019-2020 Kentucky Wildcats were carried largely by the offensive line, also known as the big blue wall. The anchor of that group of the last three years had been Drake Jackson, and his senior year is set to be his best ever.
Hometown: Versailles, KY
High School: Woodford County
Recruiting Ranking: Four-star Class of 2016 prospect and 2nd ranked center in the country via 247 Sports.
Coming off of an All-SEC junior season and leading an offensive line that had Lynn Bowden rush for a bajillion yards behind it, Kentucky center Drake Jackson has high expectations heading into his senior campaign.
Jackson came to Kentucky prepared to contribute immediately, and he did just that. After struggling to find a consistent center his redshirt freshmen year, Jackson immediately found a role as the centerpiece of the offensive line.
Going into his senior year, the expectations could not be much higher. Jackson has been named the “most valuable center returning to college football in 2020” by Pro Football Focus. Cole Cubelic has named him the top center in the Southeastern Conference. And he has his eyes set on the 2021 draft.
Jackson gives his offensive line coach, John Schlarman, a lot of the credit for his success. He sais that Schlarman holds him accountable, and he is appreciate for a coach that cares enough to be hard on him.
“I want that on me,” Jackson told Rivals. “I want that pressure on me. Tell me what I’m doing wrong. Tell me what I’m doing right, but I want to hear what I’ve got to get better at. That’s what makes you coachable. When you emphasize the negative, that’s going to make me a better player. The old saying is when your coach stops coaching you that means he’s given up on you. I’m sure that’s very true at every level. Coach Schlarman is such an incredible coach. I appreciate that. I give him all the credit.”
Over the course of the 2019-2020 season, Jackson only missed two assignments out of 845 total plays. For those of you keeping score at home, that is Jackson getting his job done 99.7% of the time. Even more shocking is his pass blocking efficiency during his UK career. As a Wildcat, Jackson has only allowed one sack in 974 snaps where he was pass-blocking.
That is a whopping 99.997%. That has to be some kind of record, right?
Kentucky will have one of the best offensive lines in the entire country, assuming college football happens this fall. And in case you are not familiar, the center plays such a vital role in the success of the entire group. Once the center gets set on the line of scrimmage, he has the option to alter the protection scheme based on the defensive alignment. The center is like the quarterback of the offensive line, and Jackson is as good as they come.
In many ways, this offense will go as far as Jackson takes them next season. If the offensive line meets expectations, Eddie Gran should have an easy time putting points on the board. After watching him the last three years, I have no doubt that Jackson will be ready to take on the challenge of leading this group to another record-setting season.
And while Jackson will have the option to return for another season since this fall won’t count as a year of eligibility, his potential to play on Sundays will likely lead to this being his final college season.