Sophomore wide receiver Jeremy Jackson saw his dad live the historic moments of Michigan football. Now he's part of it. H
Michigan's 14 games since he joined the team.
playoff victories. They were the best team in Flint history.
Jackson's lack ofsize scared off Division-I teams schools.
After a brief stint as a walk-on wide receiver at Western
Michigan, he transferred to Jackson State. His playing
career over, questions still lingering.
What if Dad had been around? How would Fred Jr.'s
football career be different if he wasn't miles away?
"When I was playingI did feel like if I had Pops around it
might bea little bit different," Fred Jr. said. "I did feel that.
But I think my whole thing and why I had success playing
quarterback in high school is because I wanted to impress
"I guess you can pin it both ways."
Jackson returned in the middle of his son's high-school
career, taking the job at Michigan. But by then Fred Jr.
didn'thave much time left to develop and Jackson was con-
cerned with figuring out a way to make this the last stop on
He had finally achieved his dream of coaching at Michi-
gan, but there was an added incentive to stay. .
"I think part of it was because myself and my sister was
here," Fred Jr. said.
Coach J stood in between stretching lines on a Tuesday
practice. It was a sunny day and he was wearing a baseball
cap and his trademark sunglasses. He hovered over junior
Vincent Smith, cracking jokes.
It's here where he finds the special ones. After 20 years
he knows what he's looking for: toughness, smarts, and "an,
inner will that wouldn't allow them to think anything you
did physically would stop them."
It usually takes a year to figure out, but the way Jack-
son sees it, there's no mistaking it. Tyrone Wheatley, Tim
Biakabutuka, Anthony Thomas, Chris Perry, Mike Hart -
they all had it.
Once he finds it, he can get started.
"You've got to coach the special guys - who you think
may be special - in a different way," Jackson said. "You've
got to treat them all fair, but you don't necessarily have to
treat them the same."
Before arriving at Michigan, Jackson had coached quar-
terbacks all his life. If he always wanted to come to the
school he always wanted to coach at and try to figure out a
way to stay close to his kids, he had to take over a position
he knew little about.
"I'm going to coach
them just like
I coach the
He worked with Burton on learning the finer points of
the position, like blocking. After two weeks, he understood
the technique. Everything else, he already knew.
"I realized after coaching quarterbacks all these years,
coaching running backs, to me, was the easiest thing I
could do," Jackson said. "I said I'm going to coach them just
like I coach the quarterbacks in terms of knowledge."
The special ones already knew how to run. Teaching
COURTESY OF FRED JACKSON JR.
Fred Jackson's son Fred Jr. (center) had a much different childhood
than his brothers Josh (left)cand Jeremy (right).
them the technique wasn't too hard. Blocking was more
about mentality anyway. They just had to know who to
block. Reading a defense and knowing which players are
likely to be blitzing isn't much different from what a quar-
terback had to see.
With Wheatley, Jackson's first test case, it worked.
"I never liked getting in the huddle because I knew all
the signals," Wheatley said. "I knew what the audibles
were so I just never liked getting in the huddle. I kind of
stood back there. I would see the same thing the quarter-
Wheatley was an All-Big Ten first team running back
three times. Tim Biakabutuka became All-Big Ten the fol-
lowing year. Three others followed suit, ending with Mike
The time away from Fred Jr. and Tonya coaching quar-
terbacks at Toledo and Navy and Vanderbilt wasn't wasted.
All that time spent studying blitz schemes and quarterback
check downs turned Fred Jackson into one of the premiere
running backs coaches in the country.
"He sees everything," Hart said. "He knows exactly
what happens on every play. ... I think as much success as
he's had, you have to respect him. He's not one of those
guys where you say, 'Oh, well this guy's only had one run-
The time away got Jackson to Michigan, back to his
children. Now, through Moeller, Carr, Rich Rodriguez and
Hoke, it's one of the reasons for his longevity.
"He's a good coach," Biakabutuka said. "Any new coach
that comes in, the head coach, can realize that."
Coaches can't create talent. They develop it. But if an
assistant coach wants to stay employed, he better find it.
Coach J knows that better than anybody. More so than
his coaching, it's the reason Rodriguez enabled years 17, 18
and 19, despite Jackson not knowing anybody on the coach-
Back in 2009, Jackson needed another running back
for the 2010 class, so he traveled down to Texas, the place
where he'd spent years convincing some of the state's best
players to spurn burnt orange or crimson and cream to don
maize and blue.
Stephen Hopkins was a downhill runner for Marcus
High School. When he rushed for over 1,500 yards his
sophomore year, colleges started calling. When he did it
again his junior year, so did Michigan.
Fifth-year senior defen-
sive tackle Ryan Van Ber-
gen has been through a lot
of change at Michigan.
He came to Ann Arbor
under the direction of Lloyd
Carr, paced the defensive
line through the Rich Rodri-
guez era and now he head-
lines Brady Hoke's front
four on defense.
Van Bergen spoke with
the media on Monday,
fresh of the Wolverines'
stunning victory over Notre
Dame less than 48 hours
The Michigan Daily: How do
you balance enjoying that win and
how it doesn't do anything for you
facing Eastern Michigan?
Ryan Van Bergen: You enjoy
it. Saturday night we enjoyed it.
Sunday we watched some film and
enjoyed the highlights. Then it's
time to move on. Eastern's a good
team, they're 2-0 for the first time
in a longtime. We've got to prepare
for them, and we've got to play a
TMD: How different was it
coming out of the tunnel Saturday
night, under the lights, as opposed
to noon or 3:30?
Van Bergen: It was really
weird. The tunnel is dimly lit any-
way and the field looks like it's
daylight because of the lights. The
atmosphere was just crazy. I've
never heard the Big House that
loud. We were watching film on
it, and the cameras were shaking.
You could barely see the game at
some points because it was so loud
that the stands were moving.
TMD: You've been through
these comebacks before, a couple
against Notre Dame and against
Wisconsin back in 2008. Did you
draw on them? Did you talk to
other guys to keep the faith when
it was looking so dire at some
Van Bergen: We just know we
have the players who are capa-
ble of making plays. If you have
Denard Robinson on your team, 30
seconds is plenty of time to score
a touchdown. He can run 100
yards in under 10 seconds, so you
don't need to worry about 30 sec-
onds being on the clock. Denard
Robinson can take the ball down
himself, and he's got receivers that
can make plays - as you can see -
one-on-one they're dangerous. We
didn't ever give up as a team. We
persevered, it's something we've
talked about all off-season.
TMD: When you see wide
receiver Jeremy Gallon that wide
open on the wheel route on the
sideline, what's that like when you
see it develop?
Van Bergen: Well I didn't see
it because Gallon is 5-(foot)-6 and
everybody else was in my way.
I saw it on the JumboTron and
I couldn't believe it. I'm looking
and trying to find out where their
defense is because he's running
still and he got to the sideline.
And then we're down around
the 25-yard line, and I'm a good
friend of Brendan (Gibbons), and
I know he's going to make the
field goal. And then coach Borges
throws a pass to Roy (Roundtree).
I can't believe he caught it; I just
fell down. I think I chest-bumped
Dave Brandon. It was just a great
experience, it was awesome.
TMD: What's that like, chest-
bumping Dave Brandon?
Van Bergen: "It was kind of
interesting because I was going
for it and I don't think he knew.
You're making eye-to-eye contact,
you start gathering for the jump,
you've got it timed out. You prac-
tice this kind of thing. We didn't
rehearse this. You could tell that
he's kind of rusty, but I think he'll
TMD:Are you aware that you're
now off scholarship?
Van Bergen: No, he seemed to
TMD: The defense locked down
pretty well in the fourth quar-
ter; so how disheartening was it
when they walked right through
the defense to take the lead again
inside 90 seconds?
Van Bergen: We didn't com-
municate as well as we needed to
in that kind of situation. It was a
great learning experience for us.
Luckily it didn't cost us that game.
We need to look back at it and see
what things we can improve on,
because two-minute defense is the
most pressure-packed situation
in the game. We've got to be good
there. Our offense scored, we need
to hold onto that win for them.
TMD: On the flip side, talk
about recovering the fumble just
Van Bergen: I didn't know what
happened because I was rushing
the passer. I thought I saw the
ball out of the corner of my eye,
and I wasn't sure, but then it came
squirting through the line. They
were in the red zone, if they would
have scored there, who knows
what the outcome of the game
would've been? That was a big play
for us. All I really did was fall on
the fumble. F
TMD: You've created and
secured more turnovers this year.
What's been the difference there?
Van Bergen: Emphasis. In prac-
tice, we emphasize that regardless
of what the tempo is. If we're in
shoulder pads or not, we're always
trying to strip the ball from our
backs. If there's incomplete passes,
we're always scooping and scoring
those in practice. Every ball that's
on the ground is our ball.
If you look at turnovers, that
decides a lot. The top of the AP
charts are the teams that get the
most turnovers and have the big-
gest turnover margin. We haven't
been at the top because of that
reason. If you look at it now, we're
probably creating some of the most
turnovers in college football.
TMD: You've had fast starts the
last couple years, and you've only
played seven quarters, but does
this 2-0 start feel different than
the last couple years?
Van Bergen: I feel like every
year has felt different. This year's
felt different just because we're
2-0, and one game was called
because of rain and the other came
down to the last two seconds. It's
been a rollercoaster already and
it's only been two games. We'll
find out where we are with this
next game ... we want to come out
and be dominant and have a good
all-around game, because we have
not put one together that we've
been successful in all three phas-
es. If we can do that, then I'll start
thinking it's a different season.
ifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen recovered a fumble Saturday.
6 FootballSaturday - September 17, 2011
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