Throughout high school, Adoree’ Jackson annually kept track of the Bowl Championship Series title game and the Rose Bowl.
Other than that, USC’s freshman cornerback was not much of a bowl-game aficionado.
So the Holiday Bowl, and USC’s Dec. 27 matchup against Nebraska, is something new for Jackson.
“This whole season is a learning experience,” he said Saturday after practice."I’m just getting used to everything.”
It did not take Jackson long to make an impact with Pac-12 Conference coaches. The former Gardena Serra High star was voted Pac-12 freshman defensive player of the year.
Jackson’s statistics were not overwhelming. He did not intercept a pass.
But opponents who tested him, especially inside the 20-yard line, usually failed.
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox was not surprised that Jackson earned Pac-12 recognition, citing his development over the course of the season.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Jackson played as a reserve in the first four games. He has since started opposite junior Kevon Seymour.
“He made a lot of plays late in the season down the field — knocking a ball down, tipping it away,” Wilcox said of Jackson. “And I think those are going to turn into interceptions.”
Jackson said the conference award was “actually pretty cool” but he added that there was plenty of room for improvement.
“I need to get interceptions,” he said.
Young and restless
Sunday’s practice will be the final workout before coaches begin to install the game plan for Nebraska.
Younger players will have had six practices of extended opportunity.
The experience will serve them well during spring practice and training camp, fifth-year senior linebacker Hayes Pullard said.
“It’s just the competitive nature that these young guys have,” he said. “They weren’t able to show it because we were getting ready for games, they were redshirting, so now this is the perfect time for them to show their true colors.”
Senior cornerback Josh Shaw, who remains unavailable to the media, appears to be making strides since returning from a suspension that kept him sidelined for 10 games.
Shaw made one tackle against UCLA and one against Notre Dame.
“If you’re away from the game for any significant amount of time, it takes a little bit to get your feet back under you,” Wilcox said.
Drills during practices the last two days were designed to challenge Shaw and the secondary, Coach Steve Sarkisian said.
“We’re trying to ramp him up,” Sarkisian said, adding, “He’s enjoying playing football, something he didn’t get to do for three months. And now he’s got a chance to do it and he’s enjoying every opportunity he gets when he comes out.”
Senior linebacker Lamar Dawson, on track to be granted a redshirt season after he was sidelined because of a slow recovery from knee surgery, returned to practice this week.
Dawson started 20 games before he was injured last season against Notre Dame. The Kentucky native needs a strong off-season conditioning program and spring practice “to get his competitive juices back flowing again,” Sarkisian said.
“So that when August rolls around, he’s in a good frame of mind, and a confident frame of mind that he can get back to being the player that he was.”
Several players who had been absent from practice for much of the season while rehabilitating injuries were in attendance as observers Friday, including linebacker Jabari Ruffin, defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow and offensive linemen Chad Wheeler, Jordan Simmons and Jordan Austin.
Junior defensive tackle Antwaun Woods did not finish practice because of a strained chest muscle, Sarkisian said. Freshman linebacker Uchenna Nwosu was sidelined after suffering an ankle injury. . . . The Trojans practice Sunday and then will be off Monday and Tuesday.