UK Football

Drake Jackson — UK’s center of the future — has never played the position

Drake Jackson of Woodford County is one of the top-rated players at his position in the nation, but it’s a position he’s never played.
Drake Jackson of Woodford County is one of the top-rated players at his position in the nation, but it’s a position he’s never played. Herald-Leader

For the past couple of years, University of Kentucky football signee Drake Jackson has been ranked by some recruiting analysts as the No. 1 center in the country.

What’s more impressive: He’s never played the position.

Highly touted offensive line recruits rarely play center for their high school teams — even if that’s where they’re projected in college — and that was the case with Jackson, who played tackle and guard for Woodford County.

Still, he was ranked as a center and often worked out in that spot at college and all-star camps, but players in those settings usually aren’t wearing pads and aren’t asked to demonstrate the full duties of the position.

Last month’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl was the first time that Jackson had really been asked to go all out at his future position. He received rave reviews, pancaking his share of highly touted defensive linemen in the process.

“It was really different,” Jackson said. “I’ve worked on it a little bit, but I didn’t have an All-American practice dummy to go against when I was doing this. So the adjustment for me was really hard. To be able to get an accurate snap, and to get those steps in and learn your hand placement.”

Jackson, known as a cerebral player with a high football IQ, spoke with great knowledge about body placement and blocking angles in different pass protection situations. He’s impressed coaches and analysts with his understanding of the position, and there’s little doubt among those who have been around him that he’ll excel there.

Three-year UK starter Jon Toth will be around to show him the ropes, and Jackson says he’s thankful for that.

He also pointed out that he actually has played center in high school. Woodford County’s starter got his helmet ripped off on a play last season, and Jackson slid over for one snap at the position.

“We scored a touchdown,” he said matter-of-factly.

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats

National signing day

Today’s features on UK recruits Drake Jackson and Kash Daniel are the first of several we’ll be publishing in the Herald-Leader and on Kentucky.com over the next two days. Stay with Kentucky.com for live updates throughout signing day on Wednesday and pick up Thursday’s Herald-Leader for additional special coverage of the class of 2016.

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