Georgia State’s fledgling football program got an unexpected boost this week with the news that quarterback Star Jackson is transferring from Alabama to play for the Panthers.
It still has to be finalized. Jackson is currently on vacation with his family — possibly in the Atlanta area — and could not be reached for comment. And nothing will be official until Jackson enrolls at GSU around June 14.
But for all practical purposes it is a done deal, according to Errick Lowe, Jackson’s head coach Lake Worth High School and one of his primary confidantes.
“As far as the Georgia State thing goes, as of right now that’s where he’s leaning to,” Lowe said Tuesday. “Classes [at GSU] start on the 14th, so I’m looking for him to be enrolled in school there by the 13th or 14th. I guess he’s going to be playing for Georgia State. That’s where it is right now.”
If you detect a non-commital hint there, Lowe said he just wants to be careful until the transfer is complete.
“It’s not final because he hasn’t signed anything,” Lowe said. “But I know when he gets back I know that’s one of the things . . . he’s going to have to do. But everything kind of leads toward Georgia State.”
Likewise, Georgia State is being careful about its involvement with Jackson, who recently obtained his scholarship release from Alabama. The Panthers declined to confirm or deny whether he intended to transfer to GSU.
“I can only confirm that we have permission to speak to him,” said Allison George, the school’s associate athletics director for communications.
Earlier this week Jackson tweeted that he was looking for housing in Atlanta, according to the Mobile Press-Register. Lowe said he wasn’t sure about that.
So what is the Panthers getting in Jackson?
First of all, they are getting a highly-recruited quarterback who had dozens of scholarship offers before choosing the current national champions. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound athlete was a U.S. Army High School All-American in 2007 and the No. 5-ranked pro-style quarterback in the nation coming out of high school, according to Rivals.com. He passed for more than 3,500 yards and 32 TDs in two seasons at Lake Worth.
But Jackson was never able to get on the field much at Alabama. He was mired behind starter Greg McElroy on the depth chart and actually fell back to third behind redshirt freshman A.J. McCarron toward the end of last season. The Crimson Tide has another talented quarterback in freshman Phillip Sims.
Jackson played in five games as a redshirt freshman, completing 13 of 18 passes for 116 yards.
“It’s just playing time,” Lowe said. “I think he felt like he wasn’t getting an opportunity. He just wanted to get on the field. He felt like transferring might have been the best thing for him.”
There were other issues. Jackson missed a portion of spring practice due to academic problems.
“We have a system around here for academics and guys have to conform to the system,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said of Jackson last March. “When a guy doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do in school, there’s a point where I won’t let him participate until he gets it straightened out.”
Jackson eventually returned to practice. Saban had said very little about Jackson until he acknowledged his departure at a Bama Caravan outing in Mobile two weeks ago.
“Star has made a tremendous amount of improvement and done a very, very good job,” Saban said. “But I think sometimes when quarterbacks can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of when they might be able to play, they get a little antsy and might want to go someplace else. Star and I have discussed it, and we’re going to help him do what he feels is going to make him and his family the best decision for his future. . . . We hate to see any player leave the program, but quarterback’s kind of a unique position where one guy can play and we have a lot of competition there right now.”
So why Georgia State?
Obviously coach Bill Curry has experience and an impeccable reputation. Atlanta is a big city, as is Jackson’s home town of Miami. And the Panthers will compete in the Football Championship Subdivision where Jackson will be immediately eligible with three seasons to play.
But there also is a personal connection. GSU defensive backs coach Anthony Midget was on the staff at Lake Worth High when Jackson played there.
“I think the trust level and him knowing somebody at the institution is one of the things that kind of led him in that direction,” Lowe said.
The really interesting part of this story begins when Jackson gets on the GSU campus. The Panthers already felt pretty good about their quarterback situation with redshirt freshmen Drew Little and Kelton Hill battling it out for starting duties. Now you throw a D-1 transfer into the mix.
And to be clear, Lowe said no promises have been made to Jackson as far as playing time.
The Crimson Tide can only hope Jackson is the starter by Nov. 20. That’s when they host the Panthers in Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.