Until late Monday evening, it appeared that there would not be a Tennessee Volunteers senior on the Senior Bowl roster for the first time since 1987.
Given the success that senior defensive tackle Malik Jackson experienced in his only two seasons as a Vol, his lack of invitation to the most prestigious college football all-star game seemed to be an egregious oversight.
However, Jackson was added to the roster late Monday night following an afternoon phone call from Senior Bowl representatives.
Jackson said he got the call around 4:30 p.m. on Monday. The 6'5", 285-pound defensive tackle arrived late for Tuesday's workout, but did dress out following his physical.
Following Tuesday's workout, Jackson said, "I haven't played football since November." The lineman continued, "I just have to get back in the groove."
If Jackson gets in his typical groove after his late to start to Senior Bowl week, prepare to hear his name mentioned a lot between now and the NFL combine in February.
Jackson's "groove" drew consistent double-team efforts from opponents all season long in 2011. Starting all 12 games, Jackson had 11 tackles for loss, two-and-a-half sacks, 10 QB hurries and one forced fumble. He finished 2011 third on the team in tackles with 56.
The former USC Trojan transferred to Tennessee in '09, following the NCAA's harsher-than-usual punishment of the Pac-12 program.
During his first season at Tennessee, Jackson had five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Jackson began his UT career at defensive end, but was moved to tackle just before his fifth game as a Vol. He registered every sack and 10 of his tackles for loss from the tackle position in 2010.
The Northridge, Calif. native has been projected as a defensive end in the NFL. He is currently ranked the No. 11 defensive end with a third- to fourth-round grade, according to NFL Draft Scout.
The now-former Vol is fine with either defensive tackle or end.
"Wherever they want to put me," Jackson said Tuesday. Jackson's body type and speed off the ball make him an ideal defensive end prospect.
It took a while to get a Vol on the roster, but Jackson could make it worth the wait. He has three days of workouts and Saturday's game to not only improve his draft stock, but to continue making Tennessee fans proud of his hard work, as well.
Jackson is the 118th Tennessee player all-time (1951) to make the Senior Bowl. He's the 70th Tennessee representative at the game since the last Vol-less Senior Bowl in '87.
(All quotes were obtained first-hand at the Senior Bowl unless otherwise noted)
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