The University of Virginia football program has struck again on the recruiting trail. James Jackson, a 6’3″, 200-pound rising senior outside linebacker/wide receiver out of North Cross School in Roanoke (VA), announced his pledge to the Hoos on Sunday (July 19).
“God, thank you for this opportunity!! Help me follow your will for my life and take full advantage of everything you’ve blessed me with,” Jackson wrote in the tweet below.
“Thankful for my family along with my coaches and friends who have shown love and support for me throughout this process,” Jackson continued. “Also, thank you to every coach that recruited me and believed in me enough to give me a chance to join their program. I’ll be attending the University of Virginia.”
— JAMES (@jamesjacks0n) July 19, 2020
UVA has picked up four commitments – Jackson, offensive linemen Logan Taylor and Charlie Patterson, and defensive back Jonas Sanker – in the month of July, boosting its 2021 Class to 19 commitments in total. Jackson and Taylor joined #THEStandard21 this week, and they are two of seven UVA rising senior commitments who attend schools in the Commonwealth.
Jackson claimed a scholarship offer from Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall on June 11. UVA was last among the Power 5 schools to extend a scholarship to Jackson, but North Cross head coach Stephen Alexander says the Hoos quickly made up for lost time.
“James has really enjoyed getting to know the [Virginia] coaching staff,” Alexander said. “He particularly enjoyed speaking with Coach Mendenhall on a couple of occasions. He has been excited after those conversations. He loves what Coach Mendenhall does with the program. He has gotten the sense of how the coaches interact with the players. It’s big to him in the recruiting process.”
“They have done a great job of explaining to James how he fits into the program,” Alexander added.
Louisville became the first Power 5 school to offer the 6’3”, 200-pound Jackson, coming through on April 20. Kansas, Stanford, West Virginia and Wake Forest offered too. Jackson, described as a “tremendous student” by Alexander, also considered Ivy League opportunities before casting his lot with UVA over Stanford.
“It came down to Stanford and UVA,” Alexander said. “He loves what UVA is building. He loves what Coach Mendenhall is building. They came in a little later, but they have done a great job and showed him a lot of love.”
Alexander notes that Jackson visited Louisville, Virginia and Wake Forest before coming to this decision. He did not visit Stanford.
“He’s a very thorough kid. Careful and regimented,” Alexander said. “He has done the best he can under the circumstances.”
Jackson, who transferred into North Cross prior to his sophomore year, emerged as a big-time contributor this past season. He played wide receiver and outside linebacker for the Raiders, helping the team to an 11-1 record and a VISAA Division II state championship. Jackson earned 2019 VISAA Division II first-team all-state honors as a receiver and a linebacker.
“Versatility,” Alexander said, is a good word to describe Jackson’s game.
“He was pretty explosive for us on both sides of the ball,” Alexander said. “He played primarily on the outside as an edge player on defense. He proved to be a great pass rusher. He played well against the run. We play against some run-heavy teams and we brought him up on the outside. On offense, he plays outside at receiver. He has good speed and a big body. He had a bunch of TD catches for us last year. We went to him a lot in jump-ball situations. From his sophomore year to his junior year, he drastically improved his explosion. He worked hard to be able to jump and get the ball at its highest point consistently. He excelled in one-on-one matchups.”
“I think the way UVA will use him, at least initially, fits the outside linebacker mold pretty well,” Alexander said when asked what position his standout could play for the Hoos. “He does have range. He has ability to step inside the box and step outside the box.”
Rivals.com ranks Jackson as a 3-star prospect. Meanwhile, 247Sports rates the promising prospect as a 3-star, the no. 44 overall rising senior in Virginia, and the no. 115 rising senior “athlete” in the nation.
Virginia Football’s Class of 2021
As mentioned, Jackson’s pledge gets Virginia up to 19 commitments in the class. This does not include defensive end Lorenz Terry, who verbally committed to the Hoos in the class of 2020 but did not sign. Terry is headed to Fork Union Military Academy this fall for postgraduate work with the hope of enrolling on Grounds in January.
Jackson has solid size, shows good athleticism and speed, makes good decisions, and has a proven work ethic his coach describes as “tenacious.” Outside linebacker certainly could be a fit, but don’t be surprised if inside linebacker is a possibility as well after some time in the weight program.
Former Virginia star linebacker Shannon Taylor is North Cross’ defensive coordinator.
– Javin Burke, Athlete, Bradley Central (Cleveland, TN)
– Jesiah Davis, Wide Receiver, Providence Day (Charlotte, N.C.)
– Malachi Fields, Athlete, Monticello (Charlottesville, VA)
– Amaad Foston, Running Back, John Milledge Academy (Milledgeville, GA)
– Ty Furnish, Offensive Lineman, Blessed Trinity Catholic (Roswell, GA)
– Micah Gaffney, Cornerback, Spanish Fort (AL)
– Michael Green, Linebacker, Lafayette (Williamsburg, VA)
– Hugh Laughlin, Defensive Lineman, Athens Academy (Athens, GA)
– James Jackson, Outside Linebacker, North Cross (Roanoke, VA)
– Langston Long, Safety/Linebacker, Christ School (Arden, N.C.)
– Josh McCarron, Outside Linebacker, Archbishop Murphy (Everett, WA)
– Charlie Patterson, Offensive Lineman, Fellowship Christian School (Roswell, GA)
– Jacob Rodriguez, Dual-Threat Quarterback, Rider (Wichita Falls, TX)
– Aidan Ryan, Defensive Back, James Monroe (Fredericksburg, VA)
– Jonas Sanker, Athlete, Covenant (Charlottesville, VA)
– William Simpkins III, Cornerback, Quince Orchard (Gaithersburg, MD)
– Logan Taylor, Offensive Tackle, Episcopal (Alexandria, VA)
– West Weeks, Linebacker, Oconee County (Watkinsville, GA)
– Jay Woolfolk, Dual-Threat Quarterback, Benedictine (Richmond, VA)