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If you’re trying to get a beat on what 2022 Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei five-star cornerback Domani Jackson is going to do, you can find plenty of conflicting messages out in the ether.
Still currently committed to USC, Jackson has a decision to make. The Trojans fired head coach Clay Helton after his Week 2 loss to Stanford, which means that there will be a new staff in Los Angeles. At the moment, Jackson’s primary recruiter, Donté Williams, is the interim head coach, but there are no guarantees that he’ll remain in his post once a new coach is named.
Meanwhile, Jackson is coming off of an official visit to Ann Arbor with his family, and it couldn’t have been better timing. The Wolverines’ Week 2 atmosphere for its prime time night game hosting Washington was electric, and there were a bevy of other elite recruits in attendance taking in the 31-10 win. While Jackson has been on campus before, it was the first time that he was able to actually take in a game at Michigan, which he’s long considered his dream school.
WolverinesWire spoke with Jackson’s father, Randy, on Wednesday, and the elder Jackson provided some details from his own perspective about the visit, starting with attending the game itself.
“It was kind of a surreal experience,” Jackson said. “People actually knew who Domani was. They weren’t shy about letting him know they wanted him to play for Michigan. And actually being there and seeing the facilities, going through them, and the staff — they have an amazing staff there. They answered all of our questions. There was a lot of connection there. And then The Big House and the maize out. That was unreal!”
Jackson’s primary recruiter is defensive pass game coordinator Steve Clinkscale, and while the recruit and coach have been forging a connection since Clinkscale joined the staff in late spring, there’s been a connection brewing between his father and the secondary coach.
The Jackson family isn’t originally from Southern California. Actually, they hail from the same place that Clinkscale calls home, in Youngstown, Ohio. And the thing about Youngstown is, even if you leave, it never leaves you.
“There’s a lot of similarities — both of us being from Youngstown, Ohio,” Jackson said. “The mentality is pretty much the same. Blue-collar, hard work, get after it mentality, not a lot of talking. Not a lot of glamor, not a lot of flash, but at the end of the day, working your butt off and earning everything you get. That helped establish a pretty good relationship between us.”
Did you have any moments with the coaching staff where you got to know them differently?
The Jackson family got a chance to sit and talk with pretty much the entire coaching staff, Randy says, but the focus wasn’t on the recruitment side of things. Instead, the coaches and staff got to know them more as people. “It was a visit, but it wasn’t all about football,” he said. “It was about a lot of other things. So football-wise, I’d say it was probably the minimal that we talked about.”
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If you’ve followed along with Jackson’s recruitment at any stage along the way, then you already know how close he is with current Michigan commit Will Johnson, a fellow five-star cornerback. At one point, the duo considered themselves a package deal, both considering Michigan, Ohio State and USC. However, on Jan. 23, Jackson pulled the trigger for the Trojans while Johnson mulled over his options. Just over a month later, after having visited USC unofficially with Jackson, Johnson opted to follow in his father Deon’s footsteps and don the winged helmet.
The relationship goes beyond the two prospects, however, as the Jackson and Johnson families have forged a bond between the parents as well.
“To be honest with you, I think this is one of the things, going through the process of the recruitment and playing 7-on-7, going on visits, he and Will have established an extremely close friendship,” Jackson said. “That has, of course, the families have established a close friendship, as well. I talk to Deon all the time and we text, we call, we talk. A thing that will go well beyond football.”
NEXT PAGE: How solid is Jackson’s commitment to USC?
For now, Jackson is still pledged to USC. There are reports that he can be swayed while there are others saying he’s 100% committed to the Trojans. However, considering that he’s taken an official visit to Michigan — he’ll also visit Alabama on Nov. 6 — it appears that solid pledge is being tested.
As Randy notes, with so much up in the air with the Trojans coaching staff, Domani has to evaluate his options to figure out what he’s going to do.
“Well, as you said, he is committed to USC. However, there is some uncertainty over there,” “The coach is gone, so there’s gonna be some changes. We’re just gonna have to see what changes they make.”
So the younger Jackson will soon have a choice to make. USC isn’t likely to name a head coach anytime soon, especially if it poaches one from another program that still has months left on the schedule. That gives the Wolverines and Crimson Tide some time to persuade the nation’s No. 2 cornerback to make the flip.
As far as Randy sees it, Domani still has a lot of factors to consider, many which won’t be answered until he treks over to Tuscaloosa.
“Right, well I think 100% Domani’s decision will be how happy is he? How is the fit? When he gets into an environment, how does he feel?” Jackson said. “That’s probably going to be the most important thing — when he steps on campus, what feeling does he have when he’s walking on campus and walking around, how does he feel? So that’s basically the big part of his decision is that. And what relationships does he have? Not only with the coaches, but the players. Of course, as you know, he and Will have a very strong relationship. So that’s gonna weigh into it also.”
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While that might be what Domani is considering, what does his father want for his son? Of course, Randy only has so much say — Domani will make his own choice. But if Randy had to choose, these are the aspects that he’s looking for and encouraging his son to look for.
“Well, the party atmosphere wouldn’t be one of them! We would not be looking for that! But the total college experience. When you go to college, what is the experience going to be? Is the campus going to be a college experience that you carry on? Are you going to have those memories for the rest of your life? Or you could be strictly business, you’re just going there strictly for football and have football memories only. So it’s going to be where he’s going to be happy in his environment and where he’s going to be able to fit into the environment. Not only on the football field, like I said, but around the community as well.”
Regardless of whether Domani Jackson chooses to stay put and say ‘Fight On!’ or if he travels back to his native northeast, the experience of visiting Ann Arbor was one for the ages — not just for him, but for his family as well, Randy says.
“The visit exceeded our family expectations — by a lot!”