- 17 receptions
- 171 receiving yards
There’s only so much players at the skill positions can do to make an impact on offense. If running backs, wide receivers and tight ends aren’t given the ball, they can’t exactly pick up yards or score touchdowns. Now, that doesn’t absolve every player of blame for a poor stat line, but it is important to consider the context of that production. Jayshon Jackson’s situation last season is a perfect example.
After a pretty promising freshman campaign in 2018 when he flashed elite playmaking skills, Jackson had built up quite a bit of hype. The numbers were far from outstanding, but he managed 23 receptions for 278 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games and just one start. When you take into account some of his highlights from the campaign, it appeared that he was becoming one of the next stars for the program.
Such prophecies were unrealized when the 2019 season came to an end. Jackson played in more games (14) and had more starts (three), but his numbers regressed, as he tallied 17 receptions for 171 yards and zero scores. On a per game basis, he produced just 1.2 receptions and 12.2 yards per game. His catches netted a little more than 10 yards on average.
As disappointing as that production looks, there were forces at work that Jackson could not control. The primary reason he did not earn more work was because Cincinnati’s offense simply wasn’t built to pass. The Bearcats ranked 81st in the country in pass attempts (377) and 107th in passing yards per game (182.3). The team’s leading receiver was tight end Josiah Deguara, who managed 39 receptions. Meanwhile, Cincinnati ran the ball more than 600 times and averaged more than 200 yards per game on the ground. Jackson only had so many opportunities to work with, and even if that is not the only reason for his regression, it is one of the primary ones.
The Best of the Best
Aug. 29, 2019 vs. UCLA
It is difficult to pick out the best games of the season for Jackson, but in the season opener, he caught three passes for 36 yards. We just didn’t know that those 36 yards would be a season-high.
Jan. 2, 2020 vs. Boston College
Jackson caught two passes for 33 yards, marking just his second game from last season with more than 30 receiving yards.
For Next Year
There is reason to expect improvements from Jackson next year. There should be more work opening up with Deguara, running back Michael Warren and wide receivers Rashad Medaris and Malick Mbodj gone. That leaves Jackson and Alec Pierce as the top pass catching threats from last season. Although Pierce outpaced Jackson last year, if more opportunities are available, Jackson should be able to capitalize.
While more playing time may be headed Jackson’s way, that doesn’t mean the offensive system is going to change. The Bearcats went 11-3 last season and played in the American Athletic Conference title game. Clearly what they were doing on offense worked well enough. Luke Fickell may be the best coach in college football, but it doesn’t take a prodigy to know that sticking to what works is an effective strategy. That means that Jackson might not be given the ball constantly, so its on him to take advantage of the times when he is featured. With his talent, it is likely that he’ll make it work.