COLUMBUS — Some other Ohio State players might have improved more than Jonah Jackson this season, but none of them improved their situation more than he did.
Jackson, the starting left guard for the Buckeyes, went from the bottom of the college football world to the top when he did a graduate transfer to Ohio State from Rutgers.
No. 2 Ohio State’s 13 wins heading into its College Football Playoff semifinal against No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday are more than Rutgers won in his four seasons there. And the Scarlet Knights were 4-31 in Big Ten games in those seasons.
“I’m enjoying it a lot, man,” Jackson said. “Yeah, Christmas definitely came early, and hopefully we get a couple more presents in the future.”
Jackson, who grew up in Media, Pa., outside Philadelphia was first-team All-Big Ten this season. He was honorable mention All-Big Ten last year at Rutgers.
With four of its five offensive linemen from 2018 not returning, Ohio State was looking for help on its line. And Jackson was looking for something more than he’d experienced in four years at Rutgers.
When Jackson came out of high school in 2015 he had offers from only four schools and Rutgers was the only one who played in a Power Five conference.
He started five games at center in 2017 and 12 games at guard in 2018.
Obviously, he has never been to a bowl game and now his first bowl could send him on to the national championship game.
“It’s pretty wild,” Jackson said. “I’m grateful to at least have one in my time. I’m excited for sure.”
OSU coach Ryan Day said, “He’s been great for the offensive line and the line has been great for him. He’s had a heck of a year.”
Jackson won the starting left guard position early in preseason practice and he impressed his teammates quickly, too.
“That’s just a tribute to who Jonah is as a person and how he handles himself and how well he did coming in here,” center Josh Myers said. “That’s a hard thing to do, what he did,. Just everything he’s done this whole process has been next to perfect.
“I think he’s got to be as happy as he can be about how everything’s going I mean, he’s doing so good. He’s so good,” he said.
Jackson was familiar with the culture of Ohio State football because Chris Ash, his coach at Rutgers his last three seasons, was a former OSU defensive coordinator. That might have played a role in his decision to choose Ohio State when he transferred.
It didn’t take 13 straight wins to convince him he’d made the right choice. After a 45-21 win over Florida Atlantic in the season opener, Jackson said, “Once I got here and realized everything that goes on in this great program, I realized this was it. This was home.”