A lot has been made of the new coaching changes to Cal Poly this off-season featuring a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator and two other position coaches but another coach made a change from the defensive side of the ball to the offensive and he’s no stranger to Cal Poly football.
Asa Jackson was the last person drafted from Cal Poly into the NFL when he was taken by the Baltimore Ravens in the 5th round of 2012 NFL Draft at defensive back where he went on to play six years in the NFL.
“It’s a beautiful thing because it brings around all the coaching points and all the things that you talk about through high school and college,” Jackson said of his professional playing career. “It’s about being persistent. It’s about working hard no matter what the result is going to be.”
Even though he jumped around to four teams in six years, it was his time at Cal Poly that helped prepare him for the grind of the NFL after arriving on-campus as a freshman in 2008, seeing the likes of Ramses Barden, who was taken in third round of the NFL Draft by the New York Giants. Now, in his second year with his alma mater, it’s his job to help instill the expectations that come with being a Mustang.
“It’s my job now to come back, set that example for the kids early and show them, not only that it’s possible [to be in the NFL], but that is actually the standard of what this place is.”
That standard of excellence is something Jackson is trying to get his wide receiver unit to after switching over from the defensive backs, which he coached last year.
“It’s so cool to be able to be on the other side and now kind of reverse engineer my coaching right,” Jackson explained. “Coaching from what I know about the defensive backs and what I know about defense, I can bring that to the receiver side and allow them to then use that knowledge to pick which tool they want to use to get open.”
With new offensive coordinator, Sheldon Cross introducing the high octane air raid offense to this Mustang group, Jackson’s job with his receivers is to get them to think for themselves and be able to react to every defensive look thrown their way.
“Do what we do regardless, and we have nothing but counter punches. We all understand what it is that we’re doing. We’re all on the same page. We can all talk to each other about what’s going on and then be able to adjust to what we’re getting from the defense.”
With the reps, the style of play and attention to detail, Coach Jackson’s group and the offense are gaining confidence now just 11 days from their first game and with two scrimmages under their belt.
“Their confidence is growing because they’re seeing it. They’re seeing themselves getting open more. They’re seeing themselves being able to get off press. They’re seeing the tools that we’ve started working on in the spring really start to come to fruition now.”
But going back to his defensive roots, Coach Jackson believes the defense is what could prove to be this team’s calling card in the conference and who better to speak on it, then a former four-time first team all-conference selection at defensive back.
“I’m very biased, but in my opinion, this defense has the possibility to be one of the tops in the Big Sky.”
While Coach Jackson couldn’t give any guarantees to the depth chart of his receiver room, he expects redshirt junior Evan Burkhart and redshirt senior Dominique Thompson to be leaders for this year’s group.