While leading Duncanville High School to back-to-back state championships in Texas, quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson became a High School All-American, a four-star recruit and was rated the No. 2 overall recruit in that state by ESPN.

Jackson enrolled at the University of Texas in 2020 but did not play. In January, he transferred to Utah and participated in spring drills.

Coach Kyle Whittingham has said that the battle for the starting quarterback job this fall will come down to Charlie Brewer and Cam Rising when fall camp kicks off in August.

But Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 232-pound freshman, was impressive, particularly when running the ball, during the spring. He still might play a significant role in the Utes’ offense this fall.

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After the spring game in April, Whittingham said Jackson could be part of a wildcat package.

“He’s a tremendous athlete … whether or not we evolve him into a ‘Ja’Quinden package’ as a wildcat type of situation remains to be seen,” Whittingham said. “We’ll see how things go this fall camp. We believe he has a high ceiling. He’s going to be a really good player as a freshman.

“He’s got a lot of eligibility left. We’re excited about him. He made a lot of progress this spring. If he continues to progress in fall camp like he did in the spring, there very well may be a role for him this fall in that capacity.”

Utah’s running backs room includes Micah Bernard and a pair of Power 5 transfers — Chris Curry (Louisiana State) and T.J. Pledger (Oklahoma). 

But Jackson could enhance the Ute rushing attack. He rushed nine times for 31 yards, including an 18-yard gain, in the spring game.

“He’s a tremendous athlete … whether or not we evolve him into a ‘Ja’Quinden package’ as a wildcat type of situation remains to be seen. We believe he has a high ceiling. He’s going to be a really good player as a freshman.” — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham

As a senior at Duncanville High, Jackson completed 100 of 163 passes for 1,711 yards with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing 93 times for 1,030 yards (11.1 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns. Jackson ran for 1,497 yards on 147 yards (10.2 ypc) as a junior, which included seven 100-yard rushing games. 

After the spring game, Whittingham evaluated the overall performances by Jackson and another highly touted freshman, Peter Costelli. 

“I thought both of them showed good signs. Peter came out and made some nice throws and showed some mobility in the pocket. Ja’Quinden played the entire second half for the Red squad. He did some good things as well,” Whittingham said. “He threw some good balls and made some nice runs. They’re still learning. It’s a process. They have to be a little more decisive at times in the pocket and not hold onto the ball so long. That’s part of the maturation process of a quarterback. But we feel like we’ve got a bunch of good freshmen quarterbacks and we’ll see how they sort themselves out as time goes by.”