Kyle Dugger was undoubtedly the leader of the secondary for the Lenoir-Rhyne football team in 2019, but he was drafted by the New England Patriots in April. The Bears will have to replace his production this season. They got a head start on doing so last year when a midseason injury forced the star safety to the sidelines for the final seven games, with other players stepping up to fill the void.
One of those players was defensive back Eric Jackson, who is back for his senior campaign in 2020. He tied for the team lead in interceptions with three and led all Lenoir-Rhyne defensive backs with 67 total tackles (38 solo) to go with four tackles for loss, four pass breakups, a sack and a forced fumble.
Jackson recorded all three of his interceptions in the same game, a 56-28 road win over Mars Hill on Sept. 28, 2019. He had 10 total tackles (3 solo) in the contest as well, his second-highest output of the season behind a 12-tackle (6 solo) performance in a 20-13 home win over Wingate on Nov. 2, 2019.
Following the regular season, Jackson was one of a program-record 15 Bears named to the All-South Atlantic Conference team. He was one of the top performers for a defense that allowed NCAA Division II’s eighth-fewest rushing yards per game (81.9) and seventh-fewest yards per carry (2.5).
As one of the key returning players for Lenoir-Rhyne, it will be up to Jackson to provide production and perhaps even more leadership than he did last year. Following the graduations of Dugger, Ivan Milliken and Landon Scott along with the departures of others from the program, Jackson, Amarrian Brown and Davin King are the only senior defensive backs listed on the Bears’ 2020 spring roster.
Of the aforementioned trio, Jackson has the most in-game defensive experience. In addition, he had more tackles a season ago than any other returning player, as linebackers Clayton Horn and Sherrod Williams and defensive end Jaquan Artis were lost to graduation. That makes his presence even more valuable to Lenoir-Rhyne’s first-year head coach, Mike Jacobs.
Previously the head coach at Notre Dame College in Ohio, where he went 42-8 and reached at least the Division II quarterfinals each of the past two seasons, Jacobs knows how to win at the college level. But when you’re new to a program, it always helps to have guys who have been there and done that.
Enter Jackson, who has played alongside talented players throughout his career at Lenoir-Rhyne, including a current NFL player in Dugger. He should be in store for a huge senior season, and that could equal another memorable year for the Bears as a whole.
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