If you follow big time college football, you know that recruiting rankings are all that matters to some. Everybody wants the 5 star guys, and most of the 4 star guys. There are plenty of 3 star recruits that turn out well. But, your fan base usually turns up it’s noses at a 2 star.
There are always exceptions. Unranked Offensive Tackle Jack Conklin was the 6th player taken in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Schools like Memphis rarely bring in 4 and 5 stars, but they do sign a few 3 star recruits. A lot of their recruits are 2 stars, or even not ranked at all.
Recruiting rankings don’t always matter, but the teams fighting for national championships always seem to recruit the highest rated recruits.
Former Clemson coach, Tommy West, was fired at Memphis after an embarrassing 2-10 record in
2009. To replace him, the Tigers hired former Memphis Running Back Larry Porter which did not end well with 1-11 and 2-10 seasons following. He was fired quickly after a 3-21 attempt and he never really had much of a chance.
In December of 2011, the Tigers brought in Justin Fuente, who was the Offensive Coordinator at TCU. Fuente got busy and put together a staff and hit the road recruiting. HIs first recruiting class brought in a few 3 stars, but most of them were lower rated including an unranked Quarterback from Florida that nobody else wanted named Paxton Lynch.
Fuente’s first season at Memphis, in 2012, was not going well. They were strolling along at 1-8 until suddenly they exploded for 3 straight wins to finish up 4-8 on the season. It was somewhat evident then that the team would be better under Fuente, but they still needed to pull off a few more wins.
With Fuente’s first real recruiting class, he signed a tall, rangy 6-5, 210 Outside Linebacker prospect from Ringling, Oklahoma that was only a 2 star recruit. To make matters worse for the youngster, he was rated the 152nd player at his position in the high school ranks. Part of the problem, for the young Outside Linebacker is nobody much had ever heard of Ringling, Oklahoma a small impoverished town in Southern Oklahoma with a population of just over 1,000 people.
But, that did not deter Jackson Dillon from signing with the best school that he could and try and make a difference.
Coming to Memphis, as a player that many thought was irrelevant, Dillon had much to prove.
By the time he arrived on campus, Jackson Dillon was listed at 6-6, 230. He got considerable playing time in 2013 and he finished with 29 total tackles. It didn’t do the Memphis Tigers a lot of good as they finished their season with a 3-9 record. After the previous season’s 3 straight win season, optimism was high and 3-9 was tough.
But, head coach Justin Fuente was building something in Memphis.
2014 was an entirely different story.
They started the season 3-3 which was not impressive, but it was a better team and it was evident on the field. With Paxton Lynch at Quarterback the Tigers won 7 straight games to finish the season 10-3. Sophomore Jackson Dillon did his part on defense and he was the only none senior to finish in the
top 7 in tackles. He did finish 5th with 43 total tackles with 9 for loss and 3 and a 1/2 Quarterback sacks.
As a junior, Dillon was up to 6-6, 245, but his production was down somewhat with 37 total tackles.
The biggest play that Jackson Dillon made all season came against Ole Miss. Ole Miss
Brent Musburger laughed at the Memphis Tigers on live television which more than motivated them against the Rebels. They don’t very much like the Rebels even without the laughter by Musburger.
Memphis took it to Ole Miss winning 37-24. One of the key plays of the game came when Ole Miss Defensive Lineman Robert Nkemdiche ran the ball and Jackson Dillon came up and stuffed him. The tackle actually knocked Nkemdiche out of the game. Who was laughing then, Brent Musburger?
The Tigers’ head coach Justin Fuente was the hottest coach in the nation and Memphis finished the regular season with an impressive 9-3 record. The Virginia Tech Hokies came in and scooped Justin Fuente up.
Fuente was replaced by Arizona State Offensive Coordinator Mike Norvell and Jackson Dillon was returning for his senior season.
But, Dillon could not play because he injured his knee and he took a redshirt as Memphis slipped somewhat to 8-5.
For 2017, Jackson Dillon is back and supposedly he is better than ever. He has one more season to develop into one of the best players in the country and a possible NFL prospect. It’s his last chance to become a terror from the outside and a threat to sack the Quarterback on any given play.
NFL players can come from anywhere, even tiny Ringling, Oklahoma.