USC freshman linebacker Cameron Smith impresses in spring practice

Freshman linebacker Cameron Smith has shown playmaking ability throughout USC's spring practice

USC freshman linebacker Cameron Smith revived a Trojans tradition this spring when he donned jersey No. 35.

The number was worn by standout linebackers such as Riki Ellison, who played at USC as Riki Gray from 1978 to 1982, and also by 1990 All-American Scott Ross and Jeff Kopp, who played in the early 90s.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Smith is still months from his first game, but he has shown playmaking ability throughout spring practice.

On Thursday, with the offense backed up near the goal line during a live drill at the Coliseum, Smith once again intercepted a pass and returned it to the end zone.

"He's not the most vocal guy right now, but how could you be as a true freshman and graduating high school early?" Coach Steve Sarkisian said. "But I've been impressed."

Smith, who played at Granite Bay High, is one of four linebackers in the 2015 recruiting class. Osa Masina and Porter Gustin from Utah and John Houston of Gardena Serra High will arrive this summer.

All are listed at 6 feet 3 or taller, reflecting Sarkisian and his staff's desire for larger and rangier linebackers.

Hayes Pullard, a four-year starter who completed his eligibility in 2014, was listed at 6-1. Senior Anthony Sarao, who is sidelined because of a foot injury, is listed at 6 feet.

Smith's conscientious preparation is reflected in his play, linebackers coach Peter Sirmon said.

"He's not a repetitive-mistake guy, which is the biggest key for those young guys to come in and play," Sirmon said.

Smith and other players who enrolled in January — quarterback Ricky Town, receiver Isaac Whitney and offensive linemen Chuma Edoga and Roy Hemsley — will not be made available to the media until training camp, Sarkisian said.

So far, Smith has let his play speak for itself.

Off track

A few days after winning the long jump and running relays at last month's USC Invitational track and field meet, Adoree' Jackson said that he hoped to compete in this weekend's Florida Relays.

Sarkisian said this week that Jackson, who plays cornerback, receiver and kick returner, would not return to track until after spring practice ends.

Jackson said Thursday that "we had a little discussion about everything," and that he was not confused or disappointed.

"I know where Coach Sark is coming from — he wants to get everything going for the season, get us ready for the start and get us in a position so that we can be a good team coming in," he said. "I understand that and respect the decision totally."

Plenty of work

Defensive tackles Antwaun Woods and Kenny Bigelow and end Greg Townsend Jr., are sidelined this spring while recovering from injuries, so defensive linemen Delvon Simmons, Claude Pelon, Cody Temple and Malik Dorton are getting plenty of work.

Simmons, 6 feet 5 and 295 pounds, made 44 tackles last season, including 2 1/2 for losses. The senior has improved confidence and is more consistent, defensive line coach Chris Wilson said.

"He understands our defense," Wilson said. "Last year he was 75%. Now he truly understands the concepts of what we're trying to get accomplished."

Freshmen Jacob Daniel, Rasheem Green, Noah Jefferson, Christian Rector and Kevin Scott will join the position group this summer.

Wilson said the goal was to be at least three deep at each position.

"You like to have two that are playing and one that's developing," he said.

Quick hits

Former defensive lineman Leonard Williams and running back Marc Tyler attended practice…. The Trojans will practice in full pads Saturday at the Coliseum. The workout is closed to the public.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein

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