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RCR Interview: Malik Jackson - CCSF Coach

Recently, Ghost of Jay Cutler wrote an article about all the ridicule surrounding Ole Miss' decision to take Jeremiah Masoli. He used it as a plea for reason, asking not that people have trouble with Masoli but just that they not go overboard with what he did. It illicited a good number of responses, but one caught our eye. User "Malikism" offered first-hand experience with Masoli since he is an assitant coach for City College of San Francisco, the school Masoli attended before Oregon.

Upon seeing his comment, I immediately searched for, and found coach Malik Jackson's e-mail address and contacted him regarding a potential interview about what Jeremiah Masoli was able to do at CCSF as well as the perceptions of the coaching staff and Masoli's teammates. Coach Jackson was kind enough to respond. My questions and his answers follow.

1.       Please introduce yourself, stating your name, title, and how you’re associated with Jeremiah Masoli.
Malik Jackson, entering my 10th year as Secondary coach at City College of San Francisco.  I coached/watched Jeremiah play every day for about a year and a half during the 2006 season that he greyshirted, and the 2007 season that he played QB for us as a freshman.  Like most incoming freshmen, I had no clue on who Jeremiah was besides hearing his name in staff meetings.  He became our scout team QB(we had Zac Lee as a starter in 2006) We played great defense during games because Masoli ran the other team's offense a lot better than the opposing team would on Saturdays.  He filled in at running back too.

2.       Was Masoli given the authority to call audibles at CCSF? If so, how did he handle that responsibility? If not, do you think that's something he's capable of doing? Basically, does Masoli read defenses and adjust well to them?
In our offense the QB is required to do a  good amount of audibles and setting pass protections, and Masoli was just as good as any in my 10 years.  A lot of the audibles that we have are built into the gameplan, so in situations if he sees certain coverages, fronts, or matchups he was free to check into different things. 
I don't know how much this speaks to his reading a defense, but my favorite statistic about Masoli is he had 5 INTs total, but only 3 during the regular season, and two of them were during one game. 

3.       You mentioned on the blog that he was a team leader and always put the team first. Can you think of any specific examples of things he did that really showcase this trait?
I wouldn't say there is anything specific that he did to put the team first. It was just in the way he treated everyone. He led by simply being a good guy. If there is a specific thing, it's that he trusted the people around him, and when things got shaky, he never pointed fingers at lineman or receivers.  He had 4 or 5 good receivers to get the ball to, and everybody trusted Masoli would make the right choices.  Not an easy thing to do.

4.       You coached defensive backs for the team. What did they think of Masoli? Can he fit the ball into tight spaces? 
Masoli can put the ball anywhere. Just look at his highlight film from 2007 season, the throws he makes are remarkable.  He can escape pressure and have touch downfield on the run.  We won a championship that year with four freshmen and a sophomore in the secondary, and seeing Masoli everyday in practice made us a better unit without question.  Our young guys had to grow up quick to earn jobs because Masoli made them look bad all summer.
(A side note, those young DBs ended up at Nebraska, Houston, Missouri, and Syracuse)

5.       What kind of work ethic did you see in the weight room/ film room? Is he sort of lazy, average, or a first to get there / last to leave type?
I never sat in a film session with him, but I sat in the pressbox with our OC (Dan Hayes) every week, and you could tell that what happened in the film room most often translated to the field on game day.  There is nothing lazy or average about Masoli football-wise. If he stayed after practice, all his guys would stay and keep working, and there would be defensive guys there as well. Our strength coach, John Balano, says that the QBs weren't required to lift because of film sessions, but Masoli found time during the week. 

6.       The Wild Rebel (our version of the wildcat) is quite similar to the zone-read option. Can you talk a little bit about Masoli’s effectiveness with that play? What makes him so deadly in that capacity?
He is deadly in that style of offense because of the option to keep the ball and the play action off of it!  He is athletic enough to to make linemen and linebackers miss(even in the SEC), and then tough enough to run over defensive backs.  In my opinion, a defensive end basically standing flat footed making a read would have a real tough job making a play on Masoli.

7.       Were there ever concerns from coaches about Masoli’s size? Any other weaknesses we should know about?
Obviously his size is a concern when you first see him.  I don't recall a time at CCSF when it was an actual issue.  We play in one of the better conferences and he threw for 3500 yards, so its not like we made him a one dimensional guy because of his size.  Jeremiah can make every throw he needs to make. 
I don't know about a weakness, but what I am interested in seeing is how he handles the caliber of athletes on defense in the SEC.  He probably can't run around everyone and improvise like he's done so well in the past.  How soon he gets comfortable enough in the offense to trust what he sees and get the ball out on time. 

8.      What did his teammates think of him as a person? Coaches?
We all had high regard for him as a person.  I didn't know him as well as the players, obviously, but nobody ever questioned his leadership, and he never questioned our authority as coaches.  What I know is true as a coach, is he was a guy I turned to if I needed help reaching out to one of his teammates, and he always handled the situation with class.  Ego was never a problem.

Personally, I like Jeremiah a lot. Idiotic mistakes aside, I feel bad about the situation he put himself in because thats not who he is.  He's a legitimate good guy.  He was a 4.0 student, he's personable, and remarkably well read.  To be fair, 95% of my relationship with him happened during practice so I can't speak to what he did when he left campus, but you wouldn't find a person on our campus who has a bad word to say about him.  I would guess the same be true about his teammates at Oregon, and I'm sure it will be the same at Ole Miss.  He is a good guy to be around and I hope people give him the chance to prove that.  I can honestly say I have no issues with standing by Jeremiah going forward. 

Thank you, Coach Jackson, for an excellent interview.