"They said, ‘Tim, we're going to consider moving you down to tackle,'" Jackson said. "But they wanted me to keep working at end during the spring so I can get as much reps as I could at end for the possibility of playing it the season, but I knew about halfway through spring that I was moving down to tackle, so throughout the offseason and the summer I was working on gaining 10-15 pounds and also watching tape on inside guys."
One player Jackson watched and turned to for advice was former teammate and All-American defensive lineman Quinton Coples.
Coples, like Jackson, made the switch from end to tackle in 2010 due to the eventual dismissal of Marvin Austin. He emerged as one of the best defensive lineman in the nation that season, recording 10 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss. Coples switched back to defensive end for his senior year, but knows what it takes to be successful at both positions.
"Coples is a phenomenal athlete," Jackson told reporters following practice on Monday. "He had strong hands. That was definitely his benefit. Long arms – he was able to keep the offensive lineman off of him. I've actually talked to him about the transition. He told me, bottom line, you just got to be a man down there and do whatever you can for the team."
While that advice may sound simple, it is easier said than done for Jackson, who at 6-foot-5 is taller than the prototypical defensive tackle. The taller a tackle, the easier it is for offensive linemen to get underneath the pads, get the defender on their heels and drive him downfield. As a defensive end, Jackson used his height to see over the offensive line and peer into the backfield. This may be the first time in Jackson's career his height is considered a disadvantage.
"I'm constantly being told to get low, keep my pads down," Jackson said. "It's just a habit of mine to come off the ball and not stand up fully, but get higher just because I'm 6-foot-5. I'm not necessarily 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2 and I have to play with a lot more leverage to hold my own down there.
"You definitely have to be stronger at the point of attack. You're definitely dealing with a lot more double teams. The guys are a little bigger and the action happens much more quickly, because you're so close to the ball."
Jackson admits he had his doubts when he was moved to tackle. He was not sure if he could handle the physical play inside and was wary of playing a less glorified and esteemed position than defensive end. After all, Jackson watched the likes of Coples, Michael McAdoo and Robert Quinn reach the NFL as ends. He expected to follow in their footsteps, but understands team goals come first. North Carolina needs increased depth at the tackle spot and Jackson is willing to help out.
"It's been an adjustment period," Jackson said. "The schemes are different. The ways of playing techniques are totally different, but I'm just trying to do the best I can for my team."