Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra’s C.J. Pollard played in the same secondary as Adoree' Jackson and watched him make plays on the offensive side of the ball for the Serra Cavaliers. Pollard has seen the impact Jackson has made at USC and listened to the constant debate that follows over how much time Jackson should split on each side of the ball.
“I play Adoree’ at corner. Adoree' is a natural corner,” Pollard said. “The way he moves his hips and the way he’s able to cover anybody and jump and just how explosive he is.”
There's a possibility that Pollard ends up sharing the same defensive backfield as Jackson. Pollard has USC as one of the schools in his soft final five along with Michigan, Utah, Oregon and Arizona State.
If Pollard ends up at USC, he might be hoping for more offensive plays for Jackson to free up some playing time at the cornerback position. While Pollard is currently listed as the No. 1 safety in the West and No. 9 safety in the country, after playing the position at Serra, he said he prefers playing cornerback — a position that runs in his blood. His father, Marvin, played cornerback at USC from 1988-1991.
That’s one of Pollard’s biggest questions about the Trojans.
“If I was to go to USC, where would I be used because I play so many positions where would I actually fit in on their defense? Where would Coach Heyward like to see me? As a corner? As a safety? Because I like playing corner more than safety with my size and things like that. I feel like I make more plays at corner, but safety is just a position I’ve played in high school because I’ve been able to get in and fit in early.”
At the powerhouse that is Serra, Pollard came in behind Pac-12 talents Glen Ihenacho, Stanley Norman and Jackson at cornerback. There was also Cameron Hayes, who signed with Hawai’i, and USC walk-on Jalen Jones, who made his presence known during the Trojans' spring practice sessions despite his diminutive size.
“We were always stacked at corner with Adoree’ Jackson and it’s just always been stacked with a huge senior class. I was able to get in and fit in the secondary at safety,” Pollard said. “That’s why I’ve gone as a safety a lot, but I like playing corner as well. I could play safety, if that’s what gets me on the field faster.”
Pollard said USC has been noncommittal about which position they like him at. Instead, they’ve spoken in more generalities.
“They haven’t really been specific. ‘We like you. We want you to be a part of the family,’ but I don’t know where I’ll be used.”
That isn’t scaring Pollard away. He was on campus during the final week of practice leading up to last Saturday’s spring game and said he loves seeing the way the defense is flying around with exuberance and energy. He went as far as to say this will be a “USC defensive year” with the likes of Su’a Cravens and Jackson on the defensive side “going to hold the team up this year.”
But before Pollard’s predictions have a chance to come true, he wants to make sure his dream of accepting a college football scholarship is realized.
If possible, Pollard wants to finalize his decision at The Opening in Beaverton (Ore.) this summer before his senior season, so he can focus on trying to help Serra win a state title. He’s also heard from older players that it’s not good to have the decision come down to National Signing Day because of how hectic it can become. He wants to lock in.
“One is it shows a commitment to the coaching staff early. They’ll appreciate that,” Pollard said. “Sometimes not everyone is going to wait for you. Sometimes your scholarship is not guaranteed. If four DBs commit before you, you never know if they’ll still take you. Kind of just securing the scholarship too in a sense.”
That’s why Pollard will be in Salt Lake City next weekend taking in Utah’s spring game. It’s one of three schools, along with Michigan and Oregon, in his final five that he has yet to see in person.
“Utah was the first offer, so that was going to be in my top five regardless. Michigan, Coach [Jim] Harbaugh, great coaching staff, everything prestigious institution,” Pollard said when describing his interests in each of his final five.
“Oregon it’s Oregon. It’s all modern. Everything is beautiful. It’s a dream to play there. Everybody, when we was littl,e we always played NCAA with Oregon. We were fascinated with the uniforms. It’s a great coaching staff. Coach [John] Neal puts a lot of guys in the NFL. He’s taken a walk-on and put them in the NFL. He’s just a great coach, great DB coach.”
Pollard also spoke highly of Arizona State head coach Todd Graham, who would also be his position coach, which Pollard said was a ‘big bonus.’
“He likes me as well. He ranked me the No. 1 DB on their board while I was there on an unofficial visit. Great atmosphere out there in Arizona.”
As for USC, Pollard talked about the Trojan tradition and USC having “a good history of DBs,” which includes both Jackson, his former teammate, and his father. But the question that remains is whether Pollard will be the next to join that heritage.
Check out C.J. Pollard's highlights from his junior season: