Kaleb Jackson – The Key to a Revised LSU Running Attack

Kaleb Jackson LSU

The New Offensive Approach

The 2024 LSU offense will operate much differently in the post-Jayden Daniels era. Newly minted co-offensive coordinators Joe Sloan and Cortez Hankton are tasked with adjusting the team’s approach to running the football to lean more heavily on the running backs. Fortunately for them, returning sophomore Kaleb Jackson has only scratched the surface of his potential as the next great LSU running back. His success will be critical to the success of the offense.

What He Brings

Jackson is LSU’s heaviest running back, listed at 6’0” and 225 pounds. Despite his size, don’t mistake him for a plodding, lumbering ball carrier. Jackson is a one-cut back with the power to force defenders into retirement and speed to take it to the house. As a young back, taking the next step means becoming a complete back who can stay on the field for three downs.

There aren’t many great LSU comparisons for Jackson. He’s faster than the bruising Alley Broussard. Joseph Addai was also a decisive, one-cut back, but Addai had better short area quickness than Jackson. Former Tiger Keiland Williams is the closest comp to Jackson’s style. At 6’-0” and 221 pounds, Williams had a rare combination of size and speed. Highlights aside, Williams did not have the physical aspect to Jackson’s game.

Year of Opportunity

Most coaches would prefer to allow their running backs to set the tone on the ground and protect their quarterbacks from big hits. Daniels was simply too dynamic of a runner to be restricted. Garrett Nussmeier is now at the helm as the Tigers’ quarterback, and the only zone-read snaps he’ll be taking is on College Football 25.

This puts the onus on the backs to produce. Former walk-on Josh Williams will likely be listed as the starter at the beginning of the season. Williams is a complete back who has earned the offensive staff’s trust in key situations. However, he doesn’t have the burst or long speed that Jackson has. Jackson will likely surpass Williams as the top back barring injury or ball security issues.

John Emery’s decision to return to LSU added much-needed depth after the team lost three running backs to the transfer portal. Emery was very highly recruited and flashed big play ability throughout his career. Unfortunately, the expectations for him are uncertain as he recovers from a torn ACL. Trey Holly‘s return is uncertain, so the only other back that LSU can count on being available is the freshman speedster Caden Durham.

As a Recruit

247Sports Composite rankings listed Jackson as the 12th-best running back and 181st overall player in the class of 2023. Jackson averaged a gaudy 14.7 yards per carry at Liberty High School in Baton Rouge, LA. Although the competition wasn’t elite in Liberty’s 4A district, that didn’t stop the likes of Georgia and Alabama from adding to the list of over 20 scholarship offers.

There was not much drama surrounding Jackson’s commitment. He humbly committed the summer before his freshman year and quickly turned into a recruiter. Fellow Louisiana native Holly also joined the fold at running back as LSU finished with a fifth-ranked class in 2023. Jackson missed most of his senior season after fracturing his ankle in the first game. He recovered from that injury in time to run a 10.68 100-meter dash the following spring.

Points to Prove

Jackson averaged five-and-a-half yards per carry in 2023, which is impressive. A new challenge now comes in maintaining that average while significantly increasing his total of 31 carries from last season. Scouts also pointed out his receiving abilities as a recruit, but he hasn’t had many chances to show his value in that regard. To be fair, that shouldn’t come as a surprise with two first-round receivers on the field. He should have more opportunities to make catches out of the backfield this year.

Known for his straight-line speed, Jackson made an impressive cut to bounce around the left side of the Wisconsin defense in LSU’s ReliaQuest Bowl win. That play was an eye-opening display of his vision and lateral quickness. If Jackson can continue to loosen his hips to fluidly change direction, the sky is the limit for him.

Main Photo courtesy: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports



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