Kearis Jackson was arguably Georgia’s most valuable receiver last season. He led the team with 514 receiving yards and tied with George Pickens for the team lead in catches with 36. Coming into 2021, Jackson was expected to be the veteran presence in the receiver’s room.
However, offseason knee surgery cost Jackson the opportunity to build upon the momentum he gained last year. He’s getting closer to playing at 100 percent, but it’s been a lengthy recovery for the fourth-year player from Peach County.
“It’s been a long four months, especially coming back off knee surgery,” said Jackson on Wednesday. “I’ve been getting myself back into the role as playing receiver, getting back to feeling like 100%, and just getting better each and every day. With my teammates, especially with the quarterbacks, getting that chemistry back down. But being able to be back out there with my team, I just missed it so much.”
For the first two games, Jackson only returned punts. He clearly was not fully ready but the coaching staff trusted him as a veteran to at least call for a fair catch on punts, rather than go with a more inexperienced player like Ladd McConkey.
“For one, I didn’t feel too comfortable with that brace on, I wasn’t 100% yet,” said Jackson. “The coaches felt confident enough that I could go back there and catch the punts. That’s the main thing about punt returns is being able to secure the ball. The coaches felt confident enough for me to be able to do that and that’s the main thing as long as it’s just securing the ball.”
Jackson made his offensive debut against South Carolina with two catches for 17 yards. On the season, he has just eight catches for 67 yards. It’s obvious Jackson is still working his way back from injury. When he’s at his best he can become a nightmare for defenses with his speed, hands and route-running in the slot.
Younger players like McConkey and Adonai Mitchell have stepped up at the receiver position through six games but the Bulldogs are going to want to get their top stars back to 100 percent as soon as possible, that starts with Jackson.
“Being able to play receiver, my routes weren’t what I want them to be at, so I didn’t want to put myself out there trying to go play 100% knowing I can’t do that,” said Jackson. “So, it’s about more so what can I do and what can I put on film. I didn’t want to put any bad stuff on tape, so if it meant to sit out four or five games, then so be it if the next time I do get on the field I could be 100%, that’s the most important thing.”