KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee’s football program got the big boost it was long expecting on Wednesday.
UT announced that Janzen Jackson had re-enrolled in school after the Volunteers’ star free safety withdrew from the spring semester in February due to personal reasons. The junior will attend classes when the second semester of summer school begins today.
“[Jackson} has returned to the team and is expected to be a full participant when training camp begins [in August],” said a short university release.
The former five-star recruit and Louisiana native was the Vols’ third-leading tackler and tied for the team lead with five interceptions last season, when Southeastern Conference coaches selected Jackson to the All-SEC second team.
Jackson missed most of UT’s preparations last December for the Music City Bowl for the same personal reasons that forced his February withdrawal, but he remained in Knoxville and kept in touch with UT coach Derek Dooley and the rest of UT’s coaching staff.
“We are continuing to support Janzen as he addresses his personal issues during this temporary withdrawal from school,” Dooley said in a release announcing Jackson’s February withdrawal. “While he would still be eligible to compete if he enrolls this fall, nothing is more important than Janzen’s well-being.”
Jackson also stayed in contact with his teammates, and the school’s online directory listed Jackson as an active staff member working in maintenance.
“You build these relationships and they go a long way,” senior cornerback Art Evans said in February. “Janzen is like a brother. [I’m] not just saying that because we’re on the same team, but we really build those types of relationships. When somebody goes down or is hurting, we all hurt. I think the greatest feeling is to understand that he’s going to be alright, and he’s just going through something right now.”
The Vols spent spring practice preparing as if Jackson would not return, although Dooley said as early as March that Jackson was “on pace” to return. Prentiss Waggner took Jackson’s spot at free safety alongside Brent Brewer after playing the second half of last season at cornerback when Brewer moved into a starting role.
Though he’ll have to shake off more than five months of being away from the football field, Jackson, given his abilities and experience, likely will reclaim his spot.
That would allow Waggner to battle returning players Marsalis Teague, Anthony Anderson, Eric Gordon and Art Evans and junior-college transfers Byron Moore and Izauea Lanier for playing time at corner.
The Vols signed eight defensive backs in February, and seven of those players are in Knoxville this summer.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...