It took four games, but USC freshman Adoree' Jackson could finally be on track to start for the first time in Saturday's Pac-12 Conference South division game against Arizona State.
Jackson, who tipped a pass that led to an interception against Oregon State, has been working with the first-team defense at cornerback.
"Technically, he's got a long way to go," defensive backs coach Keith Heyward said Wednesday. "But his natural ability, the things that he does, he's really good.
"You can't teach the speed and the explosion, and he has good hips. ... Once he gets the technique down he's going to be great."
Jackson, 5 feet 11 and 185 pounds, has played cornerback, receiver and kick returner.
He has made the biggest difference on defense, playing in a rotation with redshirt freshman Chris Hawkins, who also has played well for a unit that has not surrendered a touchdown pass.
In USC's 35-10 victory over Oregon State, Jackson made several plays, including the tipped pass in the second quarter that thwarted a touchdown and helped set up USC's Hail Mary scoring play at the end of the first half.
USC led, 14-10, when Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion attempted a pass into the end zone from the Trojans' 22 yard-line.
Jackson blanketed the receiver and jumped to break up the pass. He tipped the ball and safety Leon McQuay III caught it for an interception and touchback.
Jackson said he saw the ball and McQuay after his tip, but did not know what had happened.
"I was confused," Jackson said. "I didn't know where he was at, and that's why I was turning around in circles looking to where Leon was at."
Jackson has played 106 snaps on defense, 28 on offense and 43 on special teams, USC said.
"I'm more relaxed and having more fun with everything," Jackson said.
Ajene Harris injured
Receiver Ajene Harris, who made his first start against Oregon State, injured a hamstring during practice, making him questionable for the Arizona State game.
Harris, a freshman who played quarterback at Crenshaw High, caught three passes for 30 yards, including one for 21 yards, against Oregon State. He also attempted a pass.
Coach Steve Sarkisian described Harris' injury as a strained hamstring.
"Not ideal for a skilled athlete to do that," Sarkisian said, "so we'll see how he responds. We're hopeful we can get him back."
If Harris cannot play, that would create an opportunity for redshirt freshman Steven Mitchell as the slot receiver.
The Trojans also could move Nelson Agholor to that spot.
Sarkisian denies blocks led to injuries
Sarkisian disputed an Oregon State assistant coach who questioned the Trojans' blocking technique on plays in which Beavers' players suffered injuries.
Oregon State defensive linemen Jalen Grimble and Noke Tago suffered knee injuries against the Trojans.
"You don't know if it was done on purpose or not," defensive coordinator Mark Banker told reporters in Oregon on Tuesday, Oregonlive.com reported, "but I just think the technique was questionable."
Sarkisian said he had reviewed tape of the plays and "totally" disagreed that the blocks on the play were questionable.
"Quite honestly, it was incidental contact," Sarkisian said, adding, "It's unfortunate that he feels that way. I'll give Mark a call and I'll clear the air."