Jackson reinstated

Jackson reinstated

Vols freshman will start against Kentucky

November 25th, 2009 by Wes Rucker in Sports - College

KNOXVILLE -- Lane Kiffin knows Janzen Jackson is rested and relieved.

The University of Tennessee football coach hopes his freshman free safety is ready, too, because the Volunteers sorely missed him the past three weeks.

Jackson was fully reinstated to the team and starting lineup Tuesday, one day after all charges against him were dropped in connection with an attempted aggravated robbery near campus.

Former teammates Nu'Keese Richardson and Mike Edwards remain charged in the incident and are due back in court for a January preliminary hearing.

"We wanted to take our time to get all the information in regarding this situation," Kiffin read from a prepared statement Tuesday afternoon. "These were very serious allegations, and we had to make sure we handled this properly. After an extensive and thorough investigation by the Knoxville Police Department and district attorney's office, they have cleared Janzen of any wrongdoing in this situation and that he had no prior knowledge of this incident. Janzen will join team activities today.

"As I've said before, we hold our student athletes to an extremely high standard, on and off the field. Janzen has seen the effect personal decisions had on his former teammates, and he is excited to rejoin our team activities."

UT coaches and players were happy to have him back, too. Jackson was named Southeastern Conference freshman of the week following a dazzling Halloween night performance against South Carolina, but he missed the Nov. 7 victory over Memphis with an "administrative" suspension.

Jackson -- along with Richardson, Edwards and a female UT student -- was arrested the following Thursday, but attorney Don Bosch released a statement that night claiming Jackson "vehemently" denied any role in the robbery.

"I think he's very relieved," Kiffin said. "This has been very difficult on him. As I just said, he was cleared of any wrongdoing and any knowledge at all of this situation happening, and so part of you feels bad for him in a way because he's had to go through this. Him and his family have had to go through being on 'SportsCenter,' his name tagged with this incident, missing the last two games because of this.

"I know he's excited to be back, and he's ready to go."

Senior defensive tackle Wes Brown said before Tuesday's practice that the team would "welcome (Jackson) back with open arms," and several teammates expressed similar sentiments after practice.

"It was just really fun to have him back out there," junior All-America safety Eric Berry said. "The defense was flying around and having fun out there. When he first came out there, we were all giving him hugs and just being excited to see him.

"We can start flying around again with him back there. I can't wait."

Berry called Tuesday a "bittersweet" day, though, because Jackson's joy made him reflect on Edwards and Richardson.

"Janzen's like my little brother, and he's been smiling ear-to-ear all day, which keeps making me smile too," Berry said. "But Mike's like my little brother, too, and he's obviously still having a hard time. That's still weighing on my heart a little bit, too, because Mike and Nu'Keese have been over at the house playing video games with us, and watching them leave the other day hurt.

"At least Janzen is happy now, and I know those other two guys will come out successful down the road."

Jackson's return could be a two-way boost for the Vols, because he's also one of the team's best special-teams performers. Kiffin said earlier this season that Jackson was "one of the best (kickoff) wedge-busters I've ever seen."

"Janzen is a very intelligent football player," Kiffin said. "You can tell by the way that he plays, how he's always around the ball and knows where it's going. He's had a few weeks off, so he'll have to get back into the rhythm of practice and the rhythm of the game.

"I expect him to play really well, because he does take football so seriously and studies it so much that I don't think there will be a drop-off."

Defensive backs coach Willie Mack Garza said Jackson showed minimal rust Tuesday afternoon.

"For the most part, he was moving around pretty good," Garza said. "His adjustment to the ball was a little skeptical at times, but I don't think he's lost much. I'll put it that way."

Jackson wasn't made available to the media after practice.

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