Adoree’ Jackson and Clay Helton lingered on the field after USC’s practice on Wednesday. Helton lined up where the quarterback typically would. Jackson bounced around, settling into formation on different parts of the field.
They moved around the field for several minutes before Jackson finally trotted off.
Helton has revealed that USC will consider using Jackson more often on offense against Utah on Friday. Jackson has played one offensive snap this season, against Stanford. How, exactly, USC would use him, and for how many plays, remains a mystery.
Jackson hadn’t practiced at all on offense until this week, when he has taken an occasional offensive snap at each session. Helton said the limited action still provides the offensive coordinator with wide latitude.
In the past, Helton said, Jackson has needed just one or two days to feel comfortable in his offensive package.
“He’s one of the most football-smart guys I’ve ever been associated with,” Helton said. “So instinctive. It literally takes a walk-through meeting and he’s ready to go.”
Jackson said whatever the game plan, his routine wouldn’t change.
He will “do the same thing defensively,” he said. “Do the same thing pregame. Do the same thing I’ve been doing. Nothing changes for me. We don’t have to go out there and practice offense, just know a couple plays.”
Helton said the team doesn’t need to devise a new offensive package for Jackson. The team typically carries about six to eight plays for him each week, Helton said.
Helton has become convinced that the offense could use Jackson to provide a big-play threat and free up USC’s other receiving options. In Jackson’s one play against Stanford, Helton noted, the free safety made a beeline for Jackson, leaving JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers with no deep defender.
Jackson caught 27 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns last season. His 15.3 average yards per reception is better than all but one USC player this season (tight end Tyler Petite has averaged 17.2 yards on five receptions).
Jackson said he remains capable of such production, without much additional practice needed.
“I’ve just got to go out there and catch the ball,” he said.
Special teams coach John Baxter ran up to Sam Darnold this week, seconds before Darnold was to receive the snap to hold a field-goal attempt, and squirted him with water. He made sure to soak Darnold’s hands.
Friday’s weather forecast in Salt Lake City predicts plenty of rain. So USC has taken precautions. Baxter has made sure specialists have practiced with slick hands and footballs. On Monday, Helton had the rest of the skill players practice with wet footballs.
Defensive tackle Noah Jefferson has not been with the team this week. Helton said Jefferson has been home in Las Vegas attending to personal issues and could return to USC to resume classes by Friday. He will not travel to Utah.
Jefferson was unlikely to be available against Utah because of a sprained shoulder, which Helton said is improving.
Defensive tackle Malik Dorton (hip) will be a game-time decision, Helton said. … Running back Vavae Malepeai (broken shoulder blade) returned to practice and performed individual drills but will not participate in full-contact drills for another few weeks. ... X-rays on tight end Taylor McNamara’s foot revealed no fracture.