March 23, 2010

Jackson easing into new coaching role

MADISON - Greg Jackson was a late addition to the Wisconsin football coaching staff after the departure of Randall McCray. However, even though he's only been around Madison for a relatively short time, the new coach is seemingly fitting right in.

At the conclusion of a recent practice, caught up with the former NFL standout and new nickel back and assistant linebacker coach. The following is a question and answer with Jackson.

Editor's Note: During the interview with Jackson, a problem with my voice recorder came about. Unfortunately, the problem cut out a portion of the interview. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Well, you've been here for a couple of weeks, how has it been?

Jackson: It's been good. It's been good thus far, it's been great actually. I finally have my feet underneath me, got some rest this past weekend, which I really caught up on everything. It's been awesome. It's been everything I've thought just coming here. The atmosphere, the players and everything has been great.

From a players perspective, when they get a new coach, how tough is it to transition into that as a coach?

Jackson: I think one thing you have to do is you have to progress into it. You can't just step into it right away. You've got to get one or two guys, then two or three guys and then three or four guys. You start talking to them, start coaching them and then they start understanding how you coach. One thing I want to do when I make sure I come here, is learn the terminology coach Bret Bielema is teaching.

By me learning that, I can still teach the same thing. I think there is one of the things we get into a lot of problems with a lot of coaches is when you come in here quick and try to coach. You're not learning the terminology he's trying to coach. That's what I'm doing. I'm trying to learn the terminology and the terminology that he's teaching, that's what I want to teach.

It just kind of smoothes everything out.

Jackson: Oh yeah, it smoothes everything out because they're hearing the same thing. When guys start hearing different things, it just kills everything.

Voice recorder malfunction.

Jackson on his coaching style: Great players are the players that can do the things all the time. That's how I try to teach. I teach with motivation and enthusiasm. If they make a great play, I'm going to come and give them a high five. I'm going to run out there and give them a high five. I'm going to make sure that they know that I recognize what they're doing. Even if they're away from the play and they're doing an assignment correctly, I'm going to tell them.

As a former player in the NFL, is that just kind of what you picked up throughout your playing career, too?

Jackson: Oh no doubt. No doubt about it. I'll never forget when I first got to the Giants. It was my second year, we went to the super bowl and then Everson Walls and Dave Dorson that came in. They were in like their 12th year. I sort of watched them and they just taught me the ropes, which was great. It was a great thing.

So my teaching method is enthusiasm teaching, but at the same time coaching the little things and making sure you stay on the players about the little things. The little things are what make a difference from a player achieving and not achieving his goals.

Then kind of going with the off the field stuff and recruiting, where is your location. Where do they have you targeting?

Jackson: I'm going to have New Jersey, Maryland, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. I'm going to be in that area.

Do you have a lot of ties through your playing career?

Jackson: Oh yeah, ex-players and ex-coaches that I know. It won't be a hard transition for me.

How do you view recruiting. What is your philosophy on it?

Jackson: Recruiting is recruiting. If you're a good recruiter you can recruit anywhere regardless of who you know. Yeah, you want to get along with the coach and get good ins with the coach, but at the same time you want to be able to have the player feel comfortable and you want the parents to feel comfortable. I think that's the most important thing. You've got to be able to, like I said, you've got to be able to have the same personality that the recruit has.

You got to make him feel comfortable and make him feel wanted. That's what part of recruiting is. I truly believe that if you can recruit, you can recruit anywhere.

How do you get better at it? Is it just through repetition?

Jackson: Yeah, just through experience and repetition. Repetition and repetition. Just like if you're trying to get some great players and you don't get them, you learn something from that for the next year in recruiting. (You learn) what different approach you have to take for the next year. You learn something every year in recruiting and you learn something every year in football.

I don't care how long you've been in it. You're going to learn something every year if you're paying attention and you want to learn. That's the difference.

Then it obviously just translates out onto the field when you're coaching, too.

Jackson: No doubt about it, no doubt about it. One of my methods I truly believe is if you want to become a leader, you've got to become a follower first. That's what I truly believe and that's what I tell the players. I say me, as a coach, you've got to be able to follow before you can lead.

Just like the players, you've got to be able to follow before you can lead. You've got to pay attention and you've got to know what's going on out there. Listen to what's going on. That's what I believe.

Just going to today's (Saturday) practice with the full pads and tackling, was that kind of an exciting day for you guys?

Jackson: Oh yeah, it was exciting. It's exciting just to get out here and watch the guys scrimmage a little bit. The whole time we've been out there we've just tried to critique the techniques and what needs to be done. A lot of times, players, what they tend to do, is when you get out to the actual scrimmage or game they tend to lose focus on what they were taught.

That's what we're trying to teach and I think the biggest thing is that this film is going to be great for them. They are actually going to be out there doing it on their own and they're going to get to learn. It's a long ways to go, but I think we're way ahead. We're doing some great things. It will be a positive thing.

Five practices in (at time of interview) is anybody standing out more than the others?

Jackson: I've been impressed with a lot of guys. One guy that has really impressed me is J.J. Watt. He's stood out a lot. He is one guy that has caught my eye. He has caught my eye. I remember when we got in pads when we first got out here, I was like, 'Who is that?' He's a special one.

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