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USC Sports

Drake Jackson didn’t know whether he’d go to USC or Arizona State until the last minute

USC defensive lineman Drake Jackson warms up before a game against Stanford on Sept. 7 at the Coliseum.
USC defensive lineman Drake Jackson warms up before a game against Stanford on Sept. 7 at the Coliseum.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Drake Jackson was down to just two schools, and for the life of him, he couldn’t decide.

In those final hours before he spurned Arizona State for USC, where he’s immediately emerged as a difference-maker on defense, Jackson ached with indecision over his college choice. He changed his mind again and again over the course of that final day — one minute, he was bound for Tempe, the next, Troy.

With USC set to square off with Arizona State this week and Jackson set to return after sitting out two games with an ankle sprain, the freshman defensive end can’t help but marvel at how close he came to taking an entirely different path.

Had anything gone differently that day, he might’ve chosen Arizona State. But now, Jackson says, “I couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”

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Still, the stress of that day last December remains fresh in his mind. Overwhelmed by the weight of his decision, Jackson spent the night before discussing it with his family. When he awoke on the morning of signing day, his mind still wasn’t made up.

As USC coaches awaited word, they had no inclination what Jackson, one of their most significant recruiting targets, might be thinking.

Turns out, no one did. Jackson was supposed to announce his decision during a television segment on FOX Sports. But as the deadline approached, Jackson was still wavering. He filmed two separate announcements, one in which he committed to Arizona State, another in which he chose USC.

Even still, he couldn’t pull the trigger. The deadline for submitting the video for broadcast passed without word from Jackson.

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“It was nerve-wracking,” Jackson said. “I couldn’t think about anything but committing.”

With Arizona State, he was consistently impressed at how coach Herm Edwards ran his program like an NFL team. At USC, he saw an opportunity to prove himself early on.

Eventually, he signed his letter of intent to USC. But almost a year later, Jackson isn’t quite sure what convinced him of his final decision. Even after he’d called Clay Helton and leaked word to recruiting writers, he still doubted his decision.

But Jackson, with a bit of convincing, resolved to stick with his decision. He arrived at USC in the spring, and already, he’s proved to be one of USC’s most talented pass rushers in years.

USC’s coaches have been very pleased with the play of freshman Kenan Christon, but his lack of weight is an issue in the run game.

As such, his recent absence has been felt on defense, as USC has struggled to contain Colorado and Oregon in consecutive weeks. But as the Trojans head to the desert, their indecisive defensive end has already decided on whether he’ll return.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Jackson said. “I cannot miss another game.”

Etc.

Safety Talanoa Hufanga, who sat out the last two games with a shoulder injury, practiced again Wednesday. His status for Saturday is still up in the air. … Defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu was given a rest day on Wednesday. … Outside linebacker Hunter Echols didn’t practice. His status was not updated after practice.


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