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USC's Adoree' Jackson craves action, in football and track

USC's Adoree Jackson springs into football on offense as a receiver and on defense as a cornerback

USC's Adoree' Jackson kept busy during football season attending classes, starting at cornerback, returning kicks and playing wide receiver.

He did not slow down after the Holiday Bowl.

Jackson, a freshman, competed for the Trojans track team during the indoor season and is set to compete outdoors when the football team finishes spring practice next month.

"I'm just having fun," Jackson said. "So when you're having fun you can handle as much as you want."

Jackson had a blast in December when he starred in the Trojans' season-ending bowl victory over Nebraska. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown and displayed electrifying moves on a long catch-and-run touchdown pass play to cap an impressive debut season.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Jackson — the Pac-12 Conference defensive freshman of the year — appears well on his way to becoming the lockdown cornerback USC has sought for years. But there is room to expand his role on offense.

Coach Steve Sarkisian said the staff would proceed cautiously so as not to overburden Jackson.

"I'd love to get No. 2 the ball," Sarkisian said. "Every time he has it we all kind of hold [our] breath he might score, but there is a fine line of how much we push him."

Last fall, Jackson spent the majority of practices on defense and mixed in work as a receiver.

When USC opened spring practice Tuesday, Jackson played cornerback the entire workout.

On Thursday, he played receiver exclusively for the first time.

Jackson is scheduled to alternate full practices on defense and offense through the next four workouts.

"I want to focus on getting ready and getting polished up on my blocking and route-running so that I'm not just in for certain packages and certain plays," he said.

But which does he prefer, offense or defense?

"I like offense, seeing the fans and making the band play," he said of the aftermath of scoring touchdowns. "But at the same time, I like defense because when you make a big stop or a big play the crowd goes crazy."

Through the first part of the 2014 season, Jackson returned kicks and played as a reserve on defense and offense.

He became a starting cornerback in the fifth game against Arizona State and finished the season with 10 pass breakups and a forced fumble.

He averaged 29.7 yards per kickoff return and scored two touchdowns, one a 100-yard return at Utah and another that covered 98 yards against Nebraska.

Jackson caught 10 passes, three for touchdowns, including his spectacular 71-yard scoring play in the Holiday Bowl.

After the Trojans' 9-4 season, Jackson was selected a freshman All-American by the Football Writers Assn. of America. But he did not have much time to ponder his accomplishments.

Jackson, who posted a personal-best 25 feet 51/4 inches in the long jump at Gardena Serra High, joined the USC track team, following in the footsteps of former Trojans All-American Marqise Lee.

Caryl Smith Gilbert, USC's director of track and field, said Jackson brings excitement and "charismatic energy" to the program.

"He volunteers for everything," Smith Gilbert said. "He never says no."

Jackson struggled some in the long jump while adapting to new coaching and techniques, and posted a season-best 24-73/4 during the indoor season. He showed his versatility by running a leg of the Trojans' 4x400-meter relay, which finished second at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championships.

He will be ready for the second half of the outdoor season, including the annual dual meet against UCLA on May 3 with hopes of defeating the rival Bruins and possibly qualifying for the NCAA preliminary rounds.

But first, he is focused on sharpening his football skills during spring practice, which concludes at the Coliseum on April 11.

Last season, Jackson showed coaches, teammates, opponents and fans only some of what he can do.

"I don't think they've seen everything," he said. "Just a glimpse."

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein

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