The X Factor: RayShad Jackson


Sorry, Ms. Jackson” is one of OutKast’s biggest mainstream hits off their album “Speaker Box and The Love Below.” UNLV isn’t sorry Mr. Jackson chose UNLV over other schools. In fact, the Rebels staff and his teammates love having him as a Rebel.

When UNLV Head Coach, Tony Sanchez, hired Tim Skipper as his defensive coordinator, not only did he bring in one of the brightest defensive minds in football but also an excellent recruiter. The Skipper effect is being felt in the 2019 UNLV football recruiting class and with the ones transferring in as well. Skipper came from the University of Florida where he was their linebackers coach and where he brought in and played long, athletic dawgs who got after opposing offenses. This offseason when I got word that UNLV was in a battle for a Gators’ graduate transfer with some Power-5 schools, I kept it quiet since I didn’t want to hinder the process and, believe me, when an article goes out on a player who committed or was offered other schools, take a closer look at that player.

The X Factor: #6 RayShad Jackson | Franchise Sports Media - The Home of Las Vegas Sports
Photo Cred 24/7 Sports

On Saturday, June 22nd, I got a call from a high placed UNLV source who said “Florida linebacker RayShad Jackson just committed to us.” He continued, “RayShad Jackson is a big-time get for us, he’s going to add a different attitude and mentality to our entire team. It’s NFL or bust–a no BS attitude that we need.” Jackson agreed. “Coach Skip and Coach (Christian) Garcia played a big role in me choosing UNLV, but also academically getting accepted into my master’s program played a big role. I’m coming from a big school, so I really wasn’t looking at ‘big schools’ because I already knew what they were about. I just wanted to be in a system and school where I could be comfortable at with coaches I was comfortable with, and to get on the field and play.”

Fast forward to August 22nd during a “thud” period at one of the Rebels’ final practices of fall camp. Jackson lined up next to Vic Viramontes when running back Tyree Jackson took a handoff and RayShad blew through the “A” gap and leveled Jackson. The defense went absolutely nuts with joy and while the defensive staff had to be slightly pleased (since they ALWAYS enjoy a big hit) they also had to let Jackson know that he can’t do that to his teammates. But the message was sent loud and clear: the Rebels defense will NOT be pushovers anymore and they will be tone setters.

Jackson had a huge impact during the Rebels’ first game, a 56-23 win against Southern Utah University. The first play of the game, the SUU quarterback dropped back to pass while Jackson blitzed and hit him as he released the ball and drove him into the ground. “Coach Skip told me before the game he’s blitzing me on the first play and he wants me to set the tone for the defense this season, so that’s what I did.” After Tuesday’s practice, Jackson told me, “I want Coach Skip to blitz me more, to be honest. I’m trying to get paid at the next level!” Jackson said this all with a smile and a chuckle.

The X Factor: #6 RayShad Jackson | Franchise Sports Media - The Home of Las Vegas Sports
Tavis Malakius UNLV Football vs Southern Utah at Sam Boyd Stadium.
August 31, 2019
(Lonnie Timmons III/UNLV Photo Services)

Jackson chose UNLV over a couple of Power-5 schools such as Oklahoma St., Texas Tech, Florida Atlantic and Central Michigan. While the temperatures and heat down south are different than the Las Vegas heat, it is the heat that been the biggest adjustment for RayShad. “The heat, definitely. The humidity in Florida.. I got used to it, but in this past game my throat got dry and I wasn’t used to that.” I asked Jackson about getting used to his new teammates and he said: “I’m still getting used to the team, and the new environment, but my new teammates have been great and we already have a great bond and brotherhood.”

While Jackson didn’t start practicing until almost the final 2 weeks of fall camp, he felt that knowing Skipper’s system has made the transition a bit easier than expected. “I had 3 different coaches and schemes during my time at Florida–actually in my first 3 years–so to come here and play for Skip was easy for me since I had experience in it (the scheme). I can communicate and talk to my brothers and make sure we’re all on the same page pre-snap. They trust me and know I’m going to be where I need to be and will help them be where they need to be. It’s also easy to talk to my new brothers outside of football because we all love it and are passionate about the game.”

The difference in the competition is also noticeable for Jackson. When he chose UNLV he not only considered the education he will receive (while getting his masters degree), but also getting on the field. “Coming from the SEC to UNLV and the Mountain West Conference is a big change for me. I wouldn’t say the last game was easy, but we took care of business against a team we need to and should have in Southern Utah. But I’m used to playing big teams every week, so that part was different. But I have to keep my body recovered after the game and be ready to go for the next one (game).”

The X Factor: #6 RayShad Jackson | Franchise Sports Media - The Home of Las Vegas Sports

Against Arkansas State this week, Jackson said the Rebels defense will be up to the task while not giving away the game plan “We’re going to come out on Saturday and compete our asses off. I promise you and UNLV fans that. We’re gonna be physical against the run and the pass. I know last year was a dog fight, but this is a different Rebels team and what has happened in the past here won’t happen this year. We have a defense that trusts each other and who is all bought into what Coach Skip and Coach Sanchez is teaching. Arkansas St. better be ready to get hit. We have no intention of losing on our home field and will make sure their ass feels it when we hit them.”




Joe Arrigo