USC football progress report: Drake Jackson debuts big, projects even bigger

Drake Jackson looks like USC football's next great lineman (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
Drake Jackson looks like USC football's next great lineman (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy) /

Drake Jackson has had an immediate impact for USC football with more surely to follow.

The future of USC football’s pass rush couldn’t look any brighter with Drake Jackson leading the way.

With Jackson entering his second year on campus, the Trojans are hoping for a Leonard Williams-esque trajectory.

He’s next up in Reign of Troy’s series checking in with each Trojan before the 2020 season…

USC football progress report on Drake Jackson

What USC got as a recruit:

Jackson was a four-star prospect coming out of Corona Centennial. He ranked No. 56 in the 247Sports Composite, sitting third among defensive ends and 10th in California.

There was a serious question as to where he might fit in USC’s defense with the size to work as a defensive lineman and the quickness to play on the edge as an outside linebacker.

CHECK OUT: Graham Harrell explains Kedon Slovis’ development strategy

Either way, he was one of two Top 100 signees for the Trojans in a class that needed his star power.

What he’s accomplished:

USC’s efforts to bring in Drake Jackson in the class of 2019 were immediately paid off and not just because he went viral with an impressive backflip video.

The 6-foot-4 edge rusher trimmed down to 255 pounds and immediately started as a defensive end on Clancy Pendergast’s new four-man defensive front.

MORE: USC linebacker depth chart deep dive

He started 11 games, missing the Colorado and Oregon games because of a sprained ankle, and led the team with 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

Jackson’s efforts netted him a place on the 247Sports Freshman All-American first team, the All-Pac-12 second team and a Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honorable mention.

What to expect in 2020:

Todd Orlando’s defensive scheme raises more questions for Jackson’s positioning, but none about his involvement. He will either start at defensive end or play the B-backer outside linebacker role in the 3-3-5. Likely he’ll do both.

Wherever he is, Jackson should thrive. In both spots, he’ll have opportunities to rush the passer and create havoc in the backfield. Last year, Texas B-backer Joseph Ossai led the Longhorns with 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. Defensive end Ta’Quon Graham wasn’t far behind with 12 TFLs and 3.5 sacks.

PODCAST: Ranking USC’s top defensive linemen since 2000

An All-Pac-12 first-team nod is well within his sights. If he wants to go all-in on the Leonard Williams comparisons, he could take an even bigger leap and warrant All-American recognition in Year 2.

Where he goes from here:

Jackson is sure to garner plenty of NFL attention when the time comes. Fortunately for USC, they’ll get two more seasons out of him before the pros come calling.

It would be a surprise to see Jackson forgo the 2022 NFL Draft. He’s even been included in Walter Football’s very early 2022 mock draft as a first-rounder.

Next. It's Nearly 10 Years Since Bush's Disassociation