LOS ANGELES (AP) — Adoree Jackson is sure he will start for Southern California this week. Where the multi-talented sophomore lines up against No. 3 Utah is the question.
Jackson worked almost exclusively on offense for the second consecutive practice Wednesday for the Trojans (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12). The two-way threat seems set for more snaps at receiver than cornerback this week against the Utes because of a rash of injuries at the position.
Starters Steven Mitchell Jr. (ankle) and Darreus Rogers (hamstring) and reserve Isaac Whitney (collarbone) have not practiced this week, while redshirt freshman Jalen Greene is dealing with a tight hamstring.
“Right now it’s 50-50 at best,” interim coach Clay Helton said of the availability of Mitchell and Rogers, who have combined for 26 catches this season.
That leaves Jackson to take more snaps at receiver, where his game-breaking ability has never been in doubt.
He ripped off an 83-yard touchdown on his only reception at Notre Dame, his third career scoring grab covering at least 71 yards. Jackson is averaging 25.4 yards per reception this season, which would be the third-best mark in the FBS if he had enough catches to qualify.
“So far as I know it, I’m going to be out there more offensively and then go out there defensively when needed depending on what is going on,” Jackson said. “It just depends on how the game goes, how the flow of the game is going.”
But Jackson was on the wrong end of an explosive pass play when Fighting Irish receiver Will Fuller beat him on a post pattern for a 75-yard touchdown on Notre Dame’s first play from scrimmage. Jackson was caught peeking into the backfield and gave Fuller a free release to the middle of the field.
“It was just a rough game for me,” Jackson said. “Will Fuller is a fast receiver, so just one of those things when you got two fast guys and a guy gets a step on you.”
“Can’t do nothing about that when it’s a fast guy,” he added. “When I caught the ball and went down the middle, I looked fast. You look at him, he looks fast. It’s just hard.”
Jackson said a poor performance like that doesn’t dissuade him from playing on both sides of the ball. He has no declared preference between offense and defense, but did say it is more mentally taxing to work at corner because of the discipline required from the position. That focus was evident when Jackson forced a fumble at the goal line in the second quarter to keep USC from going down by three scores.
No matter where Jackson lines up for the game’s first play from scrimmage, it seems a given that he will be back deep to receive the opening kickoff.
“That’s one of the weird things that I see every game is I always start off on kickoff return,” said Jackson, and the trends back him up.
USC has started on offense after receiving the ball in 11 of its last 12 regular-season games, including all six this season. That should go to seven this week, as Utah has deferred its option to the second half the one time it won the coin toss this season, while the Trojans have elected to receive in the five instances the call went in their favor.
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