Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

USC Freshman Standouts May Impact Program Early

USC has an impressive group of freshman who have asserted themselves in training camp. Some may view this as Steve Sarkisian and the coaching staff having little recourse but to get a feel for their first year athletes with only 75 players on the roster. Then again, it can also be viewed that these young 18-19 year olds are JUST that good to compete in significant roles for the Trojans in 2014-15. One thing that definitely can be said, however, is that USC’s freshman class is VERY talented.

Adoree Jackson has led the charge for the USC youth movement. The 5’11, 185-pound Jackson has played cornerback, wide receiver, and kick returner in his first three practices in camp. Jackson has even taken handoffs to showcase his ball carrying ability! “I’m trying to find a flaw right now with the guy,” Sarkisian said after a practice earlier this week. “But he’s prepared, he studies, he gets his rest, he recovers, he comes energized and, ultimately, he knows what he’s doing and he’s making plays.”

Jackson, the Trojans highest ranked recruit, has lived up to all of his hype. His football IQ, high motor, and versatility have more than impressed the USC coaching staff. In fact, Sarkisian and the staff are so impressed with Jackson that they’re still unsure where exactly to position him! Considering the Trojans are nicely stacked at corner, and that Jackson comes from a high school that produced Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, Jackson may be better suited at wide receiver. The two-way player, however, is just that athletic and talented that he may still see action at both positions.

“For him, it’s not really hard. (Adoree) is just a rare talent. He’s one of the few guys I’ve been around … that can actually handle it all and do a good job doing it.” –Tee Martin

It doesn’t stop at Adoree Jackson, Trojan faithful.  Jackson has shared center stage with 5-star receiver prospect Juju Smith. Along with blazing speed and quickness, Smith has awed many with his physicality. In camp, Smith has been noted for tossing around defensive backs like rag dolls. The 6’2 receiver (some believe he’s taller than that) has begun to gain steam on potentially seeing substantial playing time with the first unit offense.

However, Smith, like Jackson, is often in the secondary as well. He was a sure-handed tackler in preps play, accumulating 71 tackles in an injury-plagued final season. In case of injuries at safety, Smith’s number could definitely be called to play the position. Despite being listed as receivers/defensive backs, both Jackson and Smith have been subject to offensive play in bulk. Sarkisian may be having a change of heart on two of his prized freshman in the USC secondary.

Former Crenshaw quarterback Ajene Harris has also tossed his name in the hat as another highly impressive freshman.  Harris has been praised as a natural receiver. For having never played a down as receiver in high school he seems to have honed his understanding for the position very well. Harris has wowed coaches with his crisp route-running, ability to shield off defensive backs, and superb hands. Due to these skills, Harris has definitely made Sarkisian’s job determining the different depth charts more difficult. Wide receiver coach Tee Martin has compared Harris to Randall Cobb, who he also coached.

Rahshead Johnson is 3rd among USC’s 2-way freshman studs. Johnson, like Jackson and Smith, has seen plenty of time at receiver, as well.  The 5’10 receiver is expected to get reps on defense, likely at cornerback. The 4-star athlete is nimble and quick enough to handle corner, but he, like Smith, has only played receiver. Sarkisian will mull over his decision where his prized freshman will land over the weekend. With such impressive performances, the Trojans have big issues ahead of them. And, they are the best type of issues to have. The future looks bright for USC, however these freshman are asserting themselves to affect the present first.


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Tags: Adoree Jackson Ajene Harris Freshmen Juju Smith Pac-12 Rahshead Johnson USC

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