Versatile USC athlete Adoree' Jackson wants to be a star cornerback

Versatile USC athlete Adoree' Jackson wants to be a star cornerback
USC defensive back Adoree' Jackson answers questions during Pac-12 media days on July 14. (Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

Adoree' Jackson settled in on the evening of Aug. 1, turned on the television and partook in that great modern American pastime: he flicked on the finale of "The Bachelorette."

To his 20,000 Twitter followers, he provided running commentary on the reality dating show, lamenting the gratuitous kissing, tsk-tsking one contestant for failing to ask the bachelorette's parents for their blessing.


"I wanted Chad to win, at first," Jackson explained recently, referring to the season's controversial contestant. "Man, they kicked him right off. Upsetting."

Jackson suggested, in jest, that the show cast him. He said he'd probably win.

Who would argue? Jackson, USC's explosive defensive back, hasn't found an activity he isn't good at. While other college players specialize, prepare for the NFL, Jackson remains a polymath. He plays multiple sports. He plays multiple positions. He cooks. He is a reality show connoisseur.

"I don't feel like I'm an ordinary type of player," Jackson said. "I mean, I love football. I watch film all the time. But I'm not going to be sitting here saying, 'Oh, I watch football 24/7.' You've gotta have some other outside activities."

USC's Ronald Jones, Dominic Davis, Adoree' Jackson, and Ricky Morgan Jr., pose for a photo after winning the men's 400-meter relay during the UCLA vs. USC track and field dual meet on May 1.
USC's Ronald Jones, Dominic Davis, Adoree' Jackson, and Ricky Morgan Jr., pose for a photo after winning the men's 400-meter relay during the UCLA vs. USC track and field dual meet on May 1. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

This season will be a referendum on Jackson's ability to do it all. By the end of the year, he'll have chased the Olympics in the long jump, returned kicks and punts, played some offense, and watched a season of "The Bachelorette." Does that leave enough time to become the best defensive player in the country? Or must he choose?

Jackson said he recognizes his future is at cornerback. The NFL pays "the big money" to the best defensive backs, he said.

But, he declared, "I feel like at the end of the day, I'm the top cornerback in the nation whether I did it full time or not. I mean, that's just how I feel."

In two seasons, Jackson has indeed been very good. But Pro Football Focus, which grades every snap a player takes, didn't rank Jackson among its top five cornerbacks entering this season. Jackson's grade in coverage actually declined last season.

This season, particularly with a young defense, USC will need a star cornerback, Coach Clay Helton said. Jackson's first game will match him with one of the nation's best receivers, Alabama's Calvin Ridley.

So USC has limited Jackson to defense and returns in training camp. He has yet to play a down on offense.

Being a lockdown cornerback, Helton explained, "takes a lot of technique and fundamentals."

He said Jackson is "so athletic that he always puts himself in position. And he has so much God-given speed that even sometimes when he's beaten, he can catch back up and put himself in position. What we're trying to do is make sure he stays on the hip all the time."

Jackson's multitasking has limited his opportunities to perfect those mechanics. He missed all of spring. USC worried enough about Jackson's transition from the straight-ahead running in track and field that they limited him early in training camp to avoid injury.

Jackson remained studious and enthusiastic. During track season, Jackson would come to the secondary coach, Ronnie Bradford, with questions: How did you run this coverage in spring? What's my alignment?


"The kid, is serious," Bradford said. "And he's focused."

If Jackson wants to carve out time for other pursuits, can he still master the intricacies of the position?

"I don't see why not," Bradford said.

USC still plans to deploy Jackson on offense a few times each game.

Helton said he could show Jackson "four plays out here in 30 minutes, and he'd be ready to go. He's an extremely smart football player."

But NFL scouting departments often favor a single-minded focus on football.

Squinting in the sun after Friday's practice, Jackson said he plans to continue his track and field career, though he added he would stop if a future team requested it.

Jackson thinks he can separate his seasons and interests.

"I don't do nothing during football season besides football," he said.

Jackson must have realized as much during "The Bachelorette" finale. He interrupted his running commentary with a thought.

"Dang," Jackson tweeted, "we start camp on Wednesday. Not going to see no shows for awhile."

Quick hits

Jon Gruden, the ESPN commentator and former NFL coach, attended part of USC's practice. … Former Trojan Cody Kessler threw a touchdown pass on his first throw in his first preseason game with the Cleveland Browns. … Helton expects every player to be academically eligible for the start of the season.

Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand