Who does Jackson remind you of most?

Who does Jackson remind you of most?

It's not easy following in the footsteps or shadows of Eric Berry. Berry, who ended up being one of the most successful players in Vols history, is now in the NFL. Can true sophomore Janzen Jackson follow the talented safety and be as good as Berry was during his career at UT? Go "Inside" to read what Dave Hooker has to say about it.

James Banks or Eric Berry?

Athletically, Janzen Jackson is largely unmatched among his fellow Vols. Like Banks before him, Jackson has the universal respect of his teammates on the field. Away from football, however, Jackson still must earn admiration. At times, Jackson has been way too Banks-like off the football field as well.

The charges have been dropped from the attempted robbery incident last December. And the persistent chatter of a player who wasn't too fond of team rules has died down. But reputations don't fade as quickly.

Jackson knows as much. Sure, he'd like to be known as an All-American one day, but he'd also like to be known as a team leader..

"That would mean a lot to me," the sophomore free safety said. "Just the progression with all the stuff that went down, just growing up and maturing. People recognizing me as a leader, that would be awesome."

According to Derek Dooley, that seems more likely with every passing day.

"He went through some tough stuff personally," Tennessee's head coach said. "I've been real impressed with how he's evaluated where he is as a man and where he wants to be as a man. He's taken a lot of steps to be better as a man.

"I think Janzen has a tremendous future. He's got a great soul. (He) came from a tough area growing up - a real tough area - and didn't have some of the advantages that many of us had. I believe in Janzen and I've been real impressed with what he's done with himself over the last few months."

That's strong praise from a coach who doesn't pull punches with the media concerning his players. Berry wasn't afraid to heap on the praise last year as well. He said Jackson was a better talent that he was, months before Berry was selected as the overall No. 5 pick in the NFL Draft.

Jackson said Berry is still a more complete player, but smiles when he reluctantly admits he may be a bit faster than the Kansas City Chiefs rookie.

Berry's praise of Jackson is reminiscent of what Banks' teammates said about him until one dumb mistake after another undermined an incredibly promising career.

Berry is still in contact with Jackson as he and other former UT players try to show the sophomore the way. Former Vol standout cornerback Terry Fair was encouraged by Jackson after a recent meeting.

"I really sense that he's maturing and just taking steps to get better everyday on and off the field," Fair said.

A sore hamstring has limited Jackson's production during preseason camp. Subsequently, he struggled in last Saturday's scrimmage, his first of fall camp. But given his talent, those struggles won't likely last long.

"We tend to forget he's only a sophomore," Fair said. "He has a lot of growing and maturing to do as well. But I think when it's all said and done and he leaves UT, he'll rank among some of the best that's played here."

Jackson is determined not to follow the path that Banks and so many of Jackson's 2009 classmates took. Highly touted prospects like Nu'Keese Richardson, Mike Edwards and Bryce Brown are gone for a myriad of reasons. Jackson is determined to salvage the once star-studded class.

"We lost a lot of key players from the 2009 class," Jackson said. "Me and (defensive back Marsalis) Teague were talking about that the other day. We've got to hang in there for each other. When something goes down, something's about to happen (bad) or somebody is slipping in their grades, we've got to help each other.

"It's a family with the team, but you're a close knit group of brothers with your class."

Family. Brothers. Sounds a lot like Berry. That should give UT fans hope.

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