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Austin Jackson declares for the 2020 NFL Draft, leaves USC early

Trent Goodrich
Jan 15, 2020, 8:37 AM PST
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
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USC offensive lineman Austin Jackson is headed to the next level. He announced Wednesday his intentions to enter the 2020 NFL Draft.

The USC football program’s offensive line took a major hit Wednesday. Junior left tackle Austin Jackson declared for the 2020 NFL Draft. His early departure comes as little surprise given the excitement about his prototypical size and athleticism from professional scouts.

The 6-foot-6 Phoenix product came to USC ranked as the 35th overall prospect in the 247 Sportts Composite rankings in 2017. After contributing on special teams and as a fill-in for Toa Lobendahn in 2017, Jackson started the last 25 games of his Trojan career at left tackle.

He announced his intentions on Instagram.

“To the amazing Trojan alumni and friends that I have met on my journey these past three years. I want to thank you for being a wonderful part of my college memories, “Jackson wrote. “The bond of the Trojan Family is for life! With that shared, I will be forgoing my senior year to pursue my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL.”

While the Men of Troy would have benefitted from his return in 2020, his draft grade from scouts and his inclusion as a first or early second-round pick in an array of mock drafts indicate the time is right for a jump to the NFL.

RELATED: Which USC Players Should Stay or Go Pro in 2020?

Even with a couple of uneven performances this season, including struggling against potential first-round pick A.J. Epenesa of Iowa, there is a belief Jackson simply requires time around NFL coaches and players to unlock his potential.

Consequently, Clay Helton and Graham Harrell are now tasked with replacing one of USC’s most consistent performers at a crucial position on the field with no clear-cut replacement waiting in the wings.

It is unclear the Trojan staff feels comfortable moving Jalen McKenzie across the line after he mostly played right guard in 2019. If not him, look for redshirt freshman Jason Rodriguez or a newcomer to vie for Jackson’s spot in the fall.

Jackson also won the John McKay award for the player with the most competitive spirit following his performance in 2018.

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