Smart, UGA land 6-11 ex-basketball recruit as OT

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Georgia made an intriguing late addition to its 2024 signing class Monday with a commitment from former elite basketball recruit Jahzare Jackson, a 6-foot-11 offensive tackle, who now stands among the tallest players in college football.

Jackson, who spent the last three years playing basketball with the Atlanta-based Overtime Elite program, announced his commitment to Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs Monday morning, opting for Georgia over Florida, Florida State, Mississippi State and Arkansas at the end of a rapid-fire recruitment. Jackson, 20, will count toward the Bulldogs’ class of 2024 and he is already on campus with plans to enroll at Georgia next month.

Entrenched in the NBA Draft process just months ago, Jackson heads for Athens as one of college football’s physical anomalies, preparing to join a national championship-caliber program with a coaching staff he says has laid out a clear path toward future playing time.

“This year, the plan is for me to come in there and buy into their scheme and learn their scheme and also just develop and get better fundamentally,” Jackson told ESPN. “They want me to come in my first year and be able to play maybe 20-30 snaps for the season. After that, they think I have the potential to come in my second year and be a starter.”

Jackson says he arrived at Georgia measuring 6-foot-11, 340 pounds, instantly asserting himself as one of tallest players in recent college football memory.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Jackson will be the fourth Division I football player listed at 6-foot-11 since 2017 and the second among active players, joining Jacksonville State offensive lineman Tom Hadary. According to Pro Football Reference data, the NFL Scouting Combine has hosted only two players over 6-foot-9 since 2000 — former Georgia offensive lineman Dennis Roland and current Detroit Lions offensive tackle Dan Skipper.

Football was Jackson’s first sport growing up in San Diego, and he held multiple Division I football offers by the end of middle school. But as Jackson sprouted to his 6-foot-11 stature, his athletic path drifted away from the football field and toward a future on the basketball court.

As recently as May, Jackson’s sights remained on a career in basketball.

A one-time AAU teammate of Bronny James, Jackson spent the first two years of high school at Florida’s IMG Academy before moving to Overtime Elite. Jackson won a championship in each of his three seasons and averaged 12.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in his final season with the program, where his contemporaries included Sarr, 2024 lottery pick Rob Dillingham and Tyler Smith, the No. 33 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

When Jackson entered the NBA Draft this spring, talent evaluators projected him as a late second-round selection likely to go undrafted. While Jackson mulled other opportunities in the G League and overseas, football — a sport he hadn’t played competitively since middle school — returned to focus, paving the way for a whirlwind June recruitment.

“It was just making the right decision at the end of the day and evaluating all opportunities that I had on the table,” Jackson said. “I had to figure out what I was going to do. Where I was going to start from. Where I was going to begin in making this transition. Then I just got to work.”

Jackson late-cycle recruitment drew interest from across the Power 4. He took June visits to Florida, Florida State and Mississippi State before closing out with Georgia, where Jackson felt a fit among his future teammates, found a connection with the coaching staff and discovered an environment reminiscent of the one he knew at Overtime Elite.

“It just felt familiar coming from a pro atmosphere,” Jackson said. “I felt like it was a place I could see myself being a part of and a place I could contribute. Coach Smart doesn’t sugarcoat anything for them. That got me.”

This fall will be viewed as Jackson’s development window as one of six offensive lineman in the program’s class of 2024. In Year 2, he plans to compete for starting snaps on the Bulldogs’ offensive line with at least one eye on NFL Draft eligibility at the end of the 2025 season.

In the meantime, Jackson arrives as Georgia among the sport’s most fascinating recruiting stories and as one of its most intriguing physical prospects after trading in the hardwood for turf.

“I’m embracing being able to come back to the sport that started it all for me in my athletic career,” Jackson said. “It’s been a great experience and I’m nothing but grateful.”

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