It came down to Jackson and Russell for the defensive newcomer award, but with Jackson being more consistent he in my opinion is the best new addition to the defense. Last year Bennett got some playing time, but didn’t start. Coming out of high school he was only a 3 star recruit and was originally recruited as a wide receiver. It’s kind of crazy to think that both of Notre Dame’s starting corners were offensive recruits (Russell a running back originally). After his performance this year he has solidified himself as the best all-around defensive back the Irish have. Jackson is a very good open field tackler, good in man/zone coverage, speed, and has good hands. All of these traits make him the best defensive back coming back for the 2013 season.
As a junior Bennett Jackson was tied (with Motta) for second on the team in tackles with 61 behind Manti Te’o. He was also second in interceptions with 4 this season. It isn’t out of the ordinary to have a defensive back second in tackles, but it is usually a safety since they have more freedom to operate. As a corner that is restricted to one side of the field most of the time it is hard to record a lot of tackles, but it is a testament to how he pursues ball carriers and gets off blocks. I don’t think many people give him enough credit, simply because the front 7 gets most of it, but Jackson and Motta are the ones that held this secondary together throughout the season. What he needs to improve on as his career goes on is his recovery time when playing 10 yards off the receiver and they throw a bubble screen, swing, or a short hitch and only allow them to a couple of yards. There were too many times teams would gain 5-8 yards on one of those passes. Jackson is more than capable to do so, but with more experience it will react much quicker. He has also had trouble reading when the ball is in the air, which he will need to improve on and will turn into more interceptions.
At 6’ 185 pounds he is a good sized corner and compared to the NFL’s best corner Darrelle Revis (5’11’’ 198 pounds) it is a close match. Jackson will need to put on more muscle weight for his senior year, but if he can get to 190-195 he should be good. This year was a coming out party for many of the defensive players on the undefeated Irish football team, but there hasn’t been a lot of talk about Bennett. He has the NFL size, speed, and hands to make it at the next level. I haven’t seen any grades on Jackson for the NFL, but I would assume that he would be a pick in the mid to late rounds. Next season will be very important to him when it comes to proving himself individually. The first step he will take against Alabama for the National Title will determine how well his next season will go.