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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Kyle Jackson has gotten second, third and fourth chances - and maybe even more.

But the senior free safety deserves one final shot this weekend.

Jackson, a popular - and deserving - scapegoat for defensive letdowns against Alabama and South Carolina in Coach Urban Meyer?s first season, was due to have a bounce-back senior season.

It was supposed to be one of those feel-good stories, a can?t-miss freshman who lost his starting job as a sophomore and watched the national championship game largely from the bench as a junior.

The Ron Zook recruit would use those memories as motivation his senior year to end his tumultuous UF career on a high note.

If you have watched Jackson?s play so far, you?ve probably noticed not much has changed.

He?s still looking lost at times and missing tackles, opening the door for true freshman Major Wright to possibly become the second player to pass him up in the last three years.

Wright announced his arrival with a smack, slamming Chris Rainey to the ground in preseason practice.

He was the first de-striped freshman.

He replaced Jackson in the starting defense on the fourth series of the season.

Against Tennessee, Jackson started and finished with as many tackles as Smokey the bluetick coonhound.

Wright recorded six tackles and a pass breakup.

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That?s five more stops and one more pass breakup than Jackson has on the entire season.

The question is not if, but when Wright will fully supplant Jackson in the starting lineup.

For now, I ask to give Jackson an umpteenth chance to prove himself.

This weekend against Mississippi marks a brief respite before a rough Southeastern Conference stretch.

After pounding the Rebels, UF faces losable games against Auburn - though that matchup is becoming less and less of a concern - at LSU, at Kentucky and in Jacksonville against Georgia.

Meyer could make a statement by starting Wright this week, but the big-hitting freshman has done just fine in his reserve role so far.

Wright has two or three more years to develop.

There is no need to rush him too quickly, especially against the worst team in the SEC.

He proved last week he can play against SEC teams.

That?s what Jackson needs to show this week.

Meyer could exhibit some faith in Jackson - which he has done admirably so far this year - and let his experienced senior play for his job one last time.

The fun and games are over after this week.

If Wright is still outperforming Jackson, there is no excuse not to make the switch after Saturday.

Well, unless Auburn loses again.

It seems so long ago when Jackson picked off two passes against South Carolina in 2004.

Writers actually described him as a playmaker. I looked it up.

Then Tyrone Prothro burned him …

and Keith Brown …

and Sidney Rice …

and, eventually, Reggie Nelson bumped him off the field completely.

This week could be the climax of the Kyle Jackson story, or it could be the start of a new chapter.

Either way, give Jackson the pen and let him write it.

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