MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- If things had gone as Minnesota coach Glen Mason had hoped, Terry Jackson II would still be on the scout team -- or maybe even playing cornerback.
That wouldn't have been a good thing for Jackson, and his success this season has made everything work out all right at running back for the Golden Gophers, too.
"If Tellis Redmon wouldn't have gone to the NFL early, which he shouldn't have done, and if Marion Barber III would have remained healthy, and if Thomas Tapeh hadn't twisted his ankle back then," Mason said, "Terry could still be on the demonstration team."
Jackson, who rushed for 239 yards and a pair of touchdowns in last week's win over Northwestern, has been happy with his chance to shine.
"I really didn't know what to expect coming into this season," said Jackson, who leads Minnesota in rushing with 793 yards on 131 attempts. "So I prayed and prayed and prayed, and God showed me some light. I'm just thankful for the opportunity."
Mason, whose 6-1 team travels to Michigan State (3-3) this weekend, said Minnesota secondary coach David Lockwood really wanted an opportunity to put Jackson on defense.
"David said, 'Why don't you give me Jackson? Let me see what I can do with him as a defensive back?"' Mason recalled. "Which is something we toyed around with a little bit. It wasn't that I didn't think Terry couldn't play running back, it's just that he always had better guys in front of him. Simple as that."
Gophers strong safety Justin Isom said Jackson has never complained about having to wait his turn.
"Terry is a soft spoken guy. He talks with his actions," Isom said. Jackson, who grew up in Saginaw, Mich., was not heavily recruited out of high school. One of his prep teammates, Michigan State star wideout Charles Rogers, was among several prospects from Saginaw that coaches wanted ahead of Jackson.
"The thing I remember about recruiting Terry Jackson was all those other guys getting recruited out of Saginaw too," Mason said. "I remember when we went there it was like a coaching convention. I don't think Terry was a heavily recruited guy."
Jackson said only three Big Ten schools -- Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin -- besides Minnesota showed any interest in him.
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