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Saturday, January 22, 2022

If free safety Kyle Jackson emerges as a playmaker in the UF secondary this year, a late-night phone call may be the reason.

The senior missed a tackle on Tennessee receiver Lucas Taylor in the first quarter of Saturday?s game, allowing the Volunteers to convert on third-and-12.

The play led to a Tennessee field goal that cut the Gators? lead to 7-3, and Jackson was pulled from the game in favor of freshman Major Wright.

Wright finished the game with six tackles - third-most on the team - while Jackson tallied none.

On Sunday, Coach Urban Meyer began to worry about his player and gave Jackson a call.

BI called him at about 10 [Sunday] night on the way home,C Meyer said. BI love Kyle Jackson and his family. He?s such an invested player. If he wasn?t so invested, we?d just kind of move on and do what we?ve got to do. But, he?s certainly a leader of this team.C

Jackson said the call was to reassure him of his spot on the team.

BI guess he thought I had some intentions on giving up, but I told him that I?ve invested too much to quit,C he said.

BI?m a Gator, and I?ll be here. He said he?s still not giving up on me and to just come out and practice, that I?m too good of a player (to quit).C

Jackson has been virtually invisible from the UF stat sheet this season. In three games he has managed just one tackle and no pass breakups.

Meanwhile, Wright is third on the team with 14 tackles and one breakup.

Jackson is quick to acknowledge his tackling problem as his biggest issue.

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BI just need to make that extra step on a tackle,C he said. BThis week I?ll be out there doing extra tackling and bringing that extra step. I?ve been playing football for too long and I know I?ve got it. It?s just that extra step on tackles and that?s what everyone wants to see, so I?ve got to bring it.C

Jackson?s biggest weakness has been his counterpart?s strength.

Wright was widely known for his hitting prowess in high school, and he has already shown it off in practice and games this season.

The freshman?s aggressiveness has led to speculation of a changeup on the depth chart at free safety, but Meyer isn?t ready to put Jackson on the sidelines.

BThere?s a role for Kyle Jackson, and there will continue to be,C Meyer said.

BHe?s in a fight, like we all are, and he has to continue to keep going to the next day. The one thing about Kyle is that he?s a high-character guy who loves Florida football. I don?t anticipate that there will be a problem.C

Jackson said that Meyer?s loyalty has already improved his mindset.

BOnce your confidence gets dropped like that in The Swamp, having the coach call you the next night to say he hasn?t given up on you and he still loves you, it puts things back in perspective,C he said.

BBefore I left the field (Monday), Coach pulled me back to the side and said that he watched the film of me missing the tackle. He said he sat up all night watching it, and it?s just that extra step. He said I?ve got everything else: the reading ability and that knack for the ball. I know that. I feel myself out there and my angles and everything are good, it?s just that tackling.C

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