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USC Football

A Pair of Takes: Surprises of The Spring

April 28, 2021
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Spring camp still has a few more day left before shop closes.  However, we want to make sure we highlight a few of the surprises in our minds that camp have offered.  

Josh An

The Jackson … 2?

Coming into the spring, USC fans knew they had at least one outstanding Jackson on the roster in Mr. 99 problems, Drake Jackson. He’s been in and out of the lineup for a variety of different issues, but don’t get me wrong, he’s shined when he’s been on the field. His performance in the Spring Scrimmage was truly impressive.

But at this point, USC fans all know what Drake is capable of, so I want to focus on two younger “Jacksons” today in Michael and Joshua. We’ll start with the latter, who came to USC in 2020 as a wide receiver prospect out of nearby Narbonne. I always liked his physicality as a receiver, but it looks like he’s actually going to use that skillset over the next 3-4 years as a defensive back instead. Players often switch positions, but few have made a quick impact like Jackson has. Whether it was getting an interception in the spring scrimmage or being promoted for PBUs on USC’s social media, the 2nd year player has developed quickly under Donte Williams’ tutelage and provides some much-needed depth at the outside corner spot behind Chris Steele and Isaac Taylor-Stuart.

Michael Jackson III has also one of the more impressive camps to date, especially for an early enrolled who is supposed to be getting ready for prom at this time of year. With Bru McCoy, Gary Bryant Jr, and other receivers in-and-out of the lineup, Jackson has taken full advantage of his reps and has immediately shown that he belongs at this level. At the spring scrimmage, he and fellow freshman Jaxson Dart linked up for a few highlight plays. While it’s very early, it’s hard to not get excited about the prospect of those two growing together over the next few years. Jackson III might’ve been underrated by some coming out of high school, but USC’s defensive backs now know what he is capable of and I’m looking forward to continuing to see him grow over the summer and fall.

Marc Kulkin

Marlon Tuipulotu, Jay Tufele, Talanoa, Hufanga, Olaijah Giffin are following their NFL aspirations, and Brandon Pili could be out for the season, yet, the guys playing DL this spring have been the camps best unit, and the secondary hasn't skipped a beat.  

And then, from the top rope, someone drops the "they're going up against USC's work-in-progress O-Line and true freshmen QBs" people's elbow!!

It's been a defensive spring this camp, and I think that's a fair assessment that most of the offensive guys would agree with.  But how much of the teams’s defensive success was a result of the way camp was set up, and how many of these results are because one side of the ball isn't perfect? --We'll find out more when fall camp is underway when both sides of the ball are more settled.

The surprise, however, even without the presence of Marlon, Jay, Pili, as well as Nick Figueroa this spring, is that the D-Line have still been the physical group Coach Orlando and So'oto were hoping to see.  The emergence of Jamar Sekona, Jay Toia, and De'Jon Benton, along with budding superstar Tuli Tuipulotu are constantly winning their battles up front more than they’re losing, and the best part, each one of them is still only a 2nd-year player which means their still more to come as they learn the game.--And their full compliment of players haven’t even participated!

I mentioned the secondary’s play this spring, and Josh specifically brought up Joshua Jackson.

But is there any player on defense more underrated than Kana'i Mauga?

Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr know better than not to be aware of Mauga; His name was mentioned as one of the team's hardest hitters on Tuesday.  USC has some big-time names who play linebacker that are on the injured list. However, Mauga keeps about his business and getting better.   

When Mauga arrived, he wasn't a known name like the other linebackers who signed with the Trojans, but he's every bit as aggressive as a Solo or Jordan Iosefa.  He might even be better in open space considering how much ground he covers ranging sideline to sideline.--This is why Kana'i is on special team coverage too.  

The biggest surprise for me while watching Kana'i this spring has been the way he's been able to harness his aggressive style and blend it with spring camps physicality, but at the same time not look like he's out of control; which has been an issue for him in the past.

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A Pair of Takes: Surprises of The Spring

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