USC Football Mailbag: Will Adoree’ Jackson, Others Leave For NFL Draft?


What are the chances Adoree’ Jackson and JuJu Smith-Schuster leave for the NFL Draft? Has Clay Helton proved himself?…Our weekly USC football mailbag seeks the answers.

The Trojans ended the regular season on a high, beating Notre Dame at the Coliseum on Saturday. Though they missed out on the Pac-12 Championship game, USC has plenty of reasons to look forward.

The Reign of Troy mailbag this week looks at the Trojans draft prospects, breakout players for next year and more.

If you have a question for the mailbag, send it in to @ReignOfTroy on Twitter or via email to

Let’s get started:

What are the chances that Adoree Jackson and Juju Smith-Schuster come back? And are there any more juniors who may leave or seniors who may be drafted?— Ray

The chances that either Adoree’ Jackson or Juju Smith-Schuster return are slim at best. Jackson has been projected to be a first-round selection for some time, and Smith-Schuster has been projected as a low first-round to high second-round pick.

With solid combines, I would expect both to be first rounders.

However, Smith-Schuster did say recently at practice that his possibility to come back is 50-50, and he joked after the win over Notre Dame that if Jackson returns he will as well. Expect a decision to be announced shortly after the bowl game.

As far as other juniors who could possibly leave are concerned, the only ones who come to mind are guards Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao. However, that would be a surprise. Expect both to return next year to be anchors on the offensive line along with Nico Falah.

As far as seniors, look for Chad Wheeler, who has had an excellent season, to make a push for the second or third round. Zach Banner may fall there as well.

It is likely that Leon McQuay and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu will be drafted, and there is potential for Darreus Rogers to be as well. It should be a solid draft showing for the Trojans.

Among the freshmen who redshirted, who do you expect to have a breakout year?— Courtney

I will name two. Tyler Vaughns, who was a five-star receiver last year, I expect to be a starter alongside Michael Pittman and Deontay Burnentt.

Also, Cary Angeline, who was a four-star tight end, could be in the mix as well.

Did Helton do enough this year to prove he was the right coach?— James

In 2011, after leading USC to a 10-2 season, Lane Kiffin was seen as the next great head coach, and many of the people who doubted his hire said that they had been wrong. In 2012, the same head coach led a team that head been ranked No. 1 to start the season to unranked with a 7-6 record.

I use this story to illustrate that just because a coach has a good season, that does not mean that he is the long-term answer. Clay Helton did a great job turning the season around after a 1-3 start. He deserves to be applauded and given the benefit of the doubt. But, next season won’t be as easy as this one.

This year, there were no real expectations of Helton, who was in his first season as the full-time head coach.

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Next season, the expectation will be a Pac-12 Championship and a playoff berth. Anything less will be seen as a failure. And that will be the standard for as long as he is there, as it should be. USC is a Top 5 program, and will always have high expectations.

Helton should be applauded for his success, but withhold judgement until after season three.

Who will back up Sam Darnold next year?— Aisha

Matt Fink and incoming freshman early enrollee Jack Sears will compete for that spot during the spring, and I would give the edge to Sears because he is a better passer and overall athlete at this point.

Jalen Greene could also be in the mix.