Before coming to play for the Gophers, Cody Poock and Merrick Jackson were defensive teammates at Iowa Western Community College, just across the river from Omaha, in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Poock was a freshman linebacker from Okoboji, trying to make his mark in the fall of 2013. He said Jackson weighed 405 pounds that year, while redshirting, a force of nature from East St. Louis, Ill., who needed to get in shape.
"His stance was straight-legged, and his fingers were barely touching the ground," Poock said.
Poock's star took off that fall, as he made 80 tackles for an Iowa Western team that went 11-1. He signed with the Gophers that December, redshirted while recovering from a torn ACL in 2014, and then made 99 tackles for Minnesota last season.
In 2014, Jackson had 10.5 tackles for a loss for Iowa Western*, and he added 19 TFL's last year before signing with the Gophers.
(* Note, Gophers safety Ace Rogers was a safety on that 2014 Iowa Western squad before coming to Minnesota.)
This spring, Jackson is in camp with the Gophers, a junior listed at 6-2, 320 pounds.
"He’s lost a lot of weight," Poock said. "That’s a tribute to him because he would play one or two snaps and have to come off the field in JUCO. He’s gotten in shape and he’s going to be good."
"A guy with his size and his strength, and his work ethic will be scary," Poock said. "Once he gets the defense down, going the right way, getting his steps, playing with consistency, it’ll be scary what he’ll be able to do."
Jackson couldn't participate in Saturday's practice with a leg injury, but otherwise, he's had a lot of playing time this spring. This fall, Poock and Jackson plan to room together, but that doesn't mean they'll divide their grocery bill 50/50.
"No," Poock said smiling. "No 50/50 for me with him. Maybe with a kicker, but not with him."