BUTTE — With top wide receiver Trevor Hoffman set to graduate, Montana Tech's football team placed an emphasis on building depth at that position over the course of its three-week spring camp.
On Friday, a possible new weapon at wideout emerged.
Jordan Jackson turned heads with two touchdown receptions during Tech's annual spring game — with both throws being delivered by quarterback Blake Thelen — as the Orediggers wrapped up their camp and now look ahead to summer workouts and, eventually, it's season opener at home against Carroll College on August 31.
"A little bit interesting with the weather we've had around these areas but we've still been able to get out and get all our practices in," said head coach Kyle Samson. "I was really proud of our guys, I thought we executed on both sides of the ball. We had some guys step up."
Jackson, a junior, was one of them and his two scores hinted at a possible breakthrough season for the Lawrenceville, Georgia, native after totaling four receptions and 89 yards last season with 46 of those yards coming on a career-long reception against The College of Idaho.
Some footage from Tech's scrimmage. One of the key positions the Orediggers need to bolster is WR with Trevor Hoffman graduating and junior Jordan Jackson stepped up this evening, hauling in two TD receptions including a 50+ yard catch-and-run. #mtscores pic.twitter.com/IpODVueHGg— Luke Shelton (@lukeshelton_mtn) April 15, 2023
He credited his promising performance on Friday to some encouraging words and the support of his teammates.
"I talked with my dad before the game and he told me to do my thing," Jackson said. "I wouldn't be able to do it without my team, my O-line blocking for me, my other receivers blocking for me. It's just stuff that we do.
"It felt good to have the ball in my hands and show off a little speed. And this is just getting prepared for next season."
Thelen, who will succeed Jet Campbell as Tech's starting quarterback this season, orchestrated four touchdown drives during the scrimmage. His performance was reassuring but not surprising for Samson after he started the majority of Tech's games last season in place of an injured Campbell.
"We fully expect (Thelen) to be one of the best quarterbacks, not just in the conference, but in the country," Samson said. "His football IQ is very high and the guys rally around him."
The Orediggers' defense — which allowed the fewest points per game in the Frontier Conference last year under first-year coordinator Aric Williams — didn't have any turnovers on Friday but still forced several punts, tackles for loss and pass breakups.
And now sitting midway between the start of the 2023 season and the end of a 2022 campaign that saw Tech go 7-3 and come within one win of a potential playoff berth, the Orediggers realize that while they may have wrapped up their spring camp on Friday, the real work is just beginning.
"Very excited about where we're at but not satisfied, we still got a lot of work to do," Samson said. "This league is so good, so talented, so many great coaches.
"We feel with the experience we have coming back that the sky's the limit."