Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Shreveport Times: Another challenge for Tech

Here is the link.

When Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley first shook hands with DeSean Jackson during an LSU recruiting visit in 2004, he knew he was meeting more than just a very good football player.  "It's hard to explain, but when I shook his hand, I could feel the energy and I fell in love with the guy," Dooley said. "Every now and then you get to recruit someone that you just love going to see. DeSean will be a success in whatever he chooses to do after football because he is such a dynamic, likeable guy."  As an assistant coach for LSU at the time, Dooley lost the battle to get Jackson's signature. Instead, the Heisman Trophy candidate has been leading the California Golden Bears to a national No. 8 ranking and a realistic chance at a Pac-10 title.  Already 2-0 on the season, Cal will test Tech (1-1) at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday in California Memorial Stadium, where the Bears regularly play in front of 50,000-plus fans. Jackson is one of the nation's best wide receivers but where he has made his most laudable impact is at kick returner, where he is a threat to take it back every time he touches the ball.

The junior carried his sixth career touchdown in 77 yards for a score in Cal's season opener against Tennessee on national television. Jackson's six returns for scores are both school and conference records and have come on just 29 tries. By contrast, NCAA record-holders Wes Walker of Texas Tech had eight on 152 returns and Antonio Perkins (Oklahoma) had eight on 113 attempts. "DeSean has a special elusiveness that very few athletes have," Dooley said. "He can stick his foot on a dime, turn and head out full speed in another direction."

Jackson didn't return a kick for a score last week against Colorado State, but he did score from 73 yards out on an end around and finished the day with a team-high 141 all-purpose yards.  "My coach said, 'I need something to spark our team,' and he threw me in there, put a reverse in there," Jackson told reporters after the game. "The outside corners had that covered up, so I just stuck my foot into the ground, hit it right up the middle and put the move on a couple of DBs. And I did what I do best, which is get into the end zone."  Cal coach Jeff Tedford said his superstar is accepting the attention of being a Heisman candidate with aplomb. "He really hasn't talked about that ... we don't talk about that at all," Tedford said. "DeSean was great last game, had great attitude, hustled, played hard, and he was as happy as anybody, he loved to see the ball being spread around all the weapons and things like that. He's handling it really, really well."

Although Dooley garned "two or three" visits from Johnson to Baton Rouge during the recruiting process, he never felt the that the Tigers were the leading candidate for his signature.

"It was between us, Cal and USC and we were trying to two-sport him (he also played baseball). I always felt we had a chance but were never in the lead," Dooley said. "I believe that it was a good decision for him to stay in California." And Jackson remembers Dooley as one of the main recruiters after him. "I was considering LSU just because of Coach Dooley," Jackson said. "He's a very inspirational dude; he has a lot of motivation; I just like him a lot. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing him and seeing how he's doing." Dooley did secure the signature of current Cal senior Lavelle Hawkins, who was at LSU briefly before transferring to the Bears.

"Coach Dooley was a pretty laid back guy, a real cool guy that smiles a lot, but also, you have to get your work done," Hawkins said. "I think he'll be a great head coach. He's a good guy but he also makes you get it done on the field." Dooley said Jackson's attitude about football is another thing that sets him apart from the average player. "He's the kind of guy who says 'throw me the damn football,' and he wants to make big plays in critical situations," Dooley said. "DeSean wants everyone to see him take it to the house because he's not bashful about being the star. "This is a hard sport and an attitude is contagious. When people see that he has a zest for the game it spills over to the rest of the team."

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