The USC Trojans will take the field tomorrow against Arkansas State to open what will hopefully be a season to remember. The Red Wolves may be a bit of an unknown to USC fans, but if you've been following along with our "30 Key Trojans" series, you know what to expect from USC this year, or at least who you should be watching on Saturday.
The “30 Key Trojans” countdown featuring the 30 USC players our panel has voted as the most important to the Trojans’ success this season concludes with a special freak of nature talent. As a reminder, our list was not the 30 most talented players or the 30 players that we expect to produce the top stats this season, but instead the players we believe could propel USC to a successful season.
So which player's success have we concluded is the biggest key for the Trojans’ season to be a success this year?
1. Adoree' Jackson - Sophomore
Our top key Trojan. Number one. Top dog. Adoree' Jackson.
While USC fans have an idea of Jackson's capabilities, the rest of the country will soon know him simply as Adoree'. Let's just start by letting USC head coach Steve Sarkisian explain:
"Adoree's a phenomenal athlete. To think about a guy as a true freshman who started at corner, played wide receiver, returned kicks, was just fantastic all year long. Comes out, participates in spring practice at the same time as practicing for track. Goes out, wins the long jump championship in the Pac-12, which is an amazing accomplishment. Finishes fourth in the hundred meters in the Pac-12, and is the anchor on the 4 by 100 team for our school, phenomenal."
Jackson is a human highlight film with his freakish athleticism. But what makes him quite possibly the most exciting college football player since Reggie Bush is his spatial awareness and intelligence. The reason why he was able to play on both offense and defense as a freshman is because of how quickly he has been able to digest the playbook. He's handled the implementation of a new offense and defense flawlessly and that should allow him even more opportunities on the offensive side this season.
He makes the transition seamlessly. After spending the first 11 fall camp practices on defense, Jackson traded in his white defensive jersey for a cardinal jersey and produced a better three-day show than Coachella at its peak. He averaged around five touchdowns per day, scoring in a variety of ways.
The first play of the first team session, Jackson scored from 80 yards out. He later should have been tackled for a loss on a screen pass, but he juked, jived and then broke down the sideline for a possible score. He skied in the end zone to outleap a pair of defensive backs for a score the next day. Back-to-back plays turned into touchdowns multiple times. Every day he did something eye-opening and nearly unbelievable. During a scrimmage at the end of that week, Jackson even was thrust into the kicker role and booted a 35-yard field goal through the uprights.
If there's anything you think he can't do with the football in his hands, you're more than likely wrong. Three of his 10 receptions (for 138 yards) last season went for touchdowns, including a 71-yard score in the National University Holiday Bowl against Nebraska that he caught in the flats one-yard beyond the line of scrimmage. Earlier in the same game, he returned a kickoff for a 98-yard touchdown -- his second kickoff return TD of the year. He 684 kick return yards already rank him 14th in school history.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jackson finished with 49 tackles, including four for losses, 10 deflections, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. By the fourth game of the season, he had taken over the starting cornerback role and has effectively become a shutdown corner. Other than interceptions, of which Jackson is still looking for his first, he put up similar numbers to those of Michigan's Charles Woodson during his Hesiman-winning 1997 campaign.
After his Freshman All-American campaign that also earned him Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and All-Pac-12 honorable mention, Jackson is on the watch lists for a number of national awards, including the Thorpe, Hornung and potentially the Heisman -- an award Jackson says he's shooting for.
"You don’t know what you’re going to get with him. He’s a ridiculous athlete. He’s a playmaker all the way around. In my opinion, you throw him the ball anywhere and he’s going to make something happen. The kid’s a freak.
I know that he’s going to make something happen, every time. I have no doubt. I’d be surprised if he didn’t. That’s what kind of athlete and type of player he is." -- USC offensive lineman Viane Talamaivao
"Whether it's defense, offense--we fight over him every day. I've been fortunate enough to be around here and in other years it's, 'There's Robert Woods, there's Marqise Lee, there's Nelson Agholor.' Who is the next superstar? This guy is. He's an ultra-special talent and I don't care if it's wideout, running back, corner. He's just really special.
Every time he touches the ball, you hold your breath because he can take it 80 yards. He’s electric. He’s such an offensive weapon that I’m glad we’re allowed to borrow him at times." -- USC offensive coordinator Clay Helton
“We're obviously better when he's out there on both sides of the ball. It's just going to be a real challenge for us as a staff to manage him properly so that we get the best out of him, and so he can get the best out of himself.”
"So how are we going to use him? The best way we can without killing the poor kid as the season goes on. He's very, very talented. A lot will be dependent upon how some of our other DBs progress and how much we can use him on the offensive side of the ball. But I would be remiss if I didn't try to get the ball in his hands because he can score at any moment. He's one of those guys when you see him out there and you know the ball is coming to him, you stop. You stop the conversation. You hold your breath. You almost stand up to see what's going to happen."
"I talked to the coaches and told them I want to play both sides of the ball and I want to win the Thorpe and I want to win the Heisman. They put me in situations where I can win it. I just have to do the things that God has blessed me with." -- Adoree' Jackson
“In the history of sports there really haven't been all that many guys who can say they want to win a Heisman, just come right out and say it, and also be the ultimate team guy whose own personal goals and drive make the team better. And no one is jealous. Or holds it against him. Pete Rose was one. Adoree' is another.
The way he approaches his game, the way he prepares, the way he engages his teammates, coaches them up, makes his offensive mates jealous -- and worried when he goes over to defense -- is unique. His intelligence, combined with amazing athletic talent is just something you do not see very often. Add a bubbling, engaging personality to that mix and you -- and USC -- have something special." — Dan Weber, USCfootball.com
|1||Adoree' Jackson||175 pts||1 (Three times)||3 (Shotgun & Austin)tomoki-kameda-mcdonnell-cbs-pbc-20150904 post in there|
|2||Su'a Cravens||168 pts||2 (Three times)||6 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|3||Cody Kessler||166 pts||1 (Dan & Austin)||6 (Gerard Martinez)|
|4||Max Tuerk||155 pts||2 (Gerard Martinez)||9 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|5||JuJu Smith-Schuster||148 pts||4 (Four times)||15 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|6||Toa Lobendahn||132 pts||5 (Shotgun Spratling)||12 (Austin Geller)|
|7||Kevon Seymour||131 pts||5 (Gerard Martinez)||14 (Twice)|
|8||Antwaun Woods||125 pts||7 (Ryan Abraham)||17 (Dan Weber)|
|9||Justin Davis||124 pts||6 (Austin Geller)||16 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|10||Lamar Dawson||121 pts||2 (Shotgun Spratling)||17 (Keely Eure)|
|11||Steven Mitchell Jr.||120 pts||8 (Shotgun Spratling)||13 (Dan & Ryan)|
|12||Claude Pelon||109 pts||9 (Dan Weber)||17 (Austin Geller)|
|13||Tre Madden||98 pts||6 (Dan Weber)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|14||Chad Wheeler||92 pts||6 (Keely Eure)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|15||Iman Marshall||86 pts||11 (Ryan Abraham)||25 (Shotgun Spratling)|
|16||Delvon Simmons||84 pts||1 (Shotgun Spratling)||28 (Gerard Martinez)|
|17||Jabari Ruffin||79 pts||12 (Dan Weber)||25 (Ryan Abraham)|
|18||Anthony Sarao||77 pts||13 (Keely Eure)||26 (Austin Geller)|
|19||Zach Banner||72 pts||12 (Shotgun Sprating)||Not listed (Austin Geller)|
|20||John Plattenburg||68 pts||15 (Keely Eure)||29 (Austin Geller)|
|21||Damien Mama||49 pts||18 (Gerard Martinez)||27 (DanWeber)|
|22||Connor Spears||44 pts||13 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|
|23||Max Browne||43 pts||19 (Twice)||Not listed (Shotgun Spratling)|
|24||Leon McQuay III||40 pts||17 (Ryan Abraham)||Not listed (Twice)|
|25||Osa Masina||39 pts||15 (Gerard Martinez)||Not listed (Keely Eure)|
|26||Darreus Rogers||36 pts||19 (Shotgun Spratling)||Not listed (Dan Weber)|
|27||Matt Boermeester||35 pts||18 (Dan Weber)||Not listed (Twice)|
|28||Chris Hawkins||34 pts||21 (Twice)||Not listed (Twice)|
|29||Viane Talamaivao||23 pts||22 (Keely Eure)||Not listed (Three times)|
|30||Ykili Ross||21 pts||22 (Austin Geller)||Not listed (Twice)|