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Published: Friday, 8/13/2004

Comfort zone: UM's Jackson elated by return to cornerback

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR - Michigan's Marlin Jackson would just as soon forget last year.

His turbulent junior season began with his involvement in a preseason fight off campus. The Big Ten's preseason defensive player of the year, who moved from cornerback to safety, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was suspended for the Wolverines' opener.

Jackson also missed three other games due to injury.

"I know I had a down season last year," he said yesterday at Michigan's media/photo day. "It wasn't fun, but I got through it. I have to learn from it and move on. Things started poorly for me in the preseason last year and it had like a snowball effect, with lots of negatives and bad things happening.

Scott graduate Willis Barringer signs autographs at Michigan's media day yesterday. Scott graduate Willis Barringer signs autographs at Michigan's media day yesterday.
ZAPOTOSKY / BLADE Enlarge

"I missed a lot of time with injuries too, which made me work so much harder in the off-season. I'm anxious to get back on the field and prove myself all over in the regular season."

Jackson, a 6-1, 199-pound senior, has shifted back to cornerback - the position he is expected to play in the NFL.

"I'm glad to be back at corner, because that is my natural position," he said. "It was really tough to switch positions last year."

Jackson is a candidate for All-American and All-Big Ten honors this season. And he is on the preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive back, along with teammate Ernest Shazor, a junior safety.

"I think Marlin's learned a lot and really what college is about," coach Lloyd Carr said. Some of the things you have to learn aren t

easy. Certainly Marlin has been through that. Marlin is a very

good person. I think he s matured and I believe in him.

Jackson has played in 33 career games for the Wolverines,

making 27 starts. He has contributed 148 tackles, eight

interceptions, seven tackles for loss, one sack, and one fumble

recovery. He also has broken up 29 pass attempts, the third-most

in school history.

Marlin is going to have an extremely strong season, receiver

Braylon Edwards said. He is one of those guys who is a tough

competitor and loves football.

He was playing out of position last year. To me, that showed the

world, the media, the coaches that he s one of those guys who

will do anything for Michigan.

He didn t want to play safety last year that s not what he is.

He s a natural-born corner. He played safety to help our team

out. He made the switch because the coaches wanted him to. But

now he s back in the saddle at DB, and he s going to make it

happen this year.

Despite his so-so season last year, when Michigan won the Big

Ten championship and earned a berth in the Rose Bowl, Jackson

briefl y considered entering the NFL draft this spring.

In the end, though, he decided to stay at Michigan, even though

a few NFL scouts told him he likely would be a mid-fi rst-round

or early second-round pick.

I don t think anything in the NFL draft would have been

enough for me, especially the way that last season went, Jackson

said. There wasn t anything that was going to pull me away

from Michigan.

He insists he has never been in better shape.

I ve always had good strength, but my endurance wasn t always

at its best level. Now it is. I don t get tired. I feel like I can play all

day.

Jackson earned second-team All-American honors at cornerback

as a sophomore in 2002, when he started 13 games and

set single-game and single-season records for passes broken

up, with six and 18, respectively.

Jackson also ended up sixth on the team in tackles with 51.

He said he is a different player now than he was a year ago, with

a much better attitude.

I m in a whole other place in my life right now. Coming from

that situation, even though it was a negative situation, it made

me a better person. Right now my mind is clear and I m focused

on football.

I want to have my best season, and nothing less than winning

the Big Ten championship. How can you go from winning

the Big Ten championship to anything less? You want to do

that, especially in your last year. You don t want to regres. You

want to progress.

Willis Barringer started fi ve games for Michigan last year at

safety in Marlin Jackson s absence.

But the Scott High School graduate took a little bit of a

step back this spring, according to secondary coach Ron English.

Barringer will be hard-pressed to fi nd playing time in the talented

secondary this fall.

Willis is competing at one of those safety positions and

on special teams, UM coach Lloyd Carr said. I think this is

an important year for him. He needs to make a stand, make a

statement.

Ernest Shazor is the starter at strong safety in preseason camp,

while Ryan Mundy is No. 1 at free safety.

Barringer, a redshirt sophomore, is battling Jacob Stewart,

Brandent Englemon, and freshman Jamar Adams for playing

time on the depth chart.

Barringer played in 10 games for the Big Ten champion Wolverines

last season. He made 23 tackles and broke up two passes.

I just want to contribute this year and do what I can do

to help the team win, he said yesterday. I m just going to play

hard, play well, and compete the best I can.

Contact Ron Musselman at: mussel@theblade.com



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