USC turns to 'spark plug' Jackson to boost offense
LOS ANGELES (AP) Adoree Jackson hopes to be the ''spark plug'' for a struggling Southern California offense.
The Trojans have already made a change at quarterback, naming redshirt freshman Sam Darnold the starter against No. 24 Utah on Friday. Using the electric cornerback Jackson more on offense is another way to shake up an offense that has only scored one touchdown in two games against Power-5 opponents Alabama and Stanford this season.
''I think I just get the momentum going, like Coach (Clay Helton) said,'' Jackson said. ''I feel like I'm the lighter fluid to the barbecue. Just throw me in there and then get the party started.''
Jackson has not caught a pass this season, but averaged 14.9 yards per reception and scored five touchdowns in occasional action as a wide receiver during his first two seasons at USC. He flashed that big-play ability by returning a punt 77 yards for a touchdown against Utah State to earn Pac-12 special teams player of the week honors. Jackson also intercepted a pass against the Cardinal.
After missing spring practices in an attempt to qualify for the Rio Olympics in the long jump, Jackson focused on playing defensive back in training camp to refine his skills and familiarize himself with new coordinator Clancy Pendergast's schemes. But with the offense misfiring, Jackson is ready to return to three-way duties, expressing it in his low-key way.
''I don't mind getting out there, get some touchdowns, catch some balls, get some explosive plays,'' Jackson said. ''Nothing changes for me. I have to go out there, practice offense, just know a couple plays. Defensively, I just do everything the same.''
Jackson didn't say how he reacted to the announcement Monday morning during a team meeting that Darnold would replace redshirt junior Max Browne, but is looking forward to seeing how he plays. The more pressing issue beyond changing quarterbacks, Jackson said, is eliminating the penalties and mental mistakes that have caused the offense to stall.
''You see glimpses when we do everything correctly, and then sometimes we don't do stuff correctly and we look bad,'' Jackson said. ''What's not there is the consistency for us offensively.''
Besides using Jackson at receiver, the USC offense could also get a boost from former Utes defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, who joined USC as a blueshirt graduate transfer during training camp. Tu'ikolovatu met with Pendergast and offensive coordinator Tee Martin this week to give them scouting reports on Utah's personnel.
Helton said there were limits to what Tu'ikolovatu could provide, but praised the redshirt senior from Salt Lake City for bringing maturity to a young defensive line. Tu'ikolovatu does believe his experience going against the Utah offensive line in practice would be helpful.
''I think it's a huge advantage,'' Tu'ikolovatu said. ''I've been telling a lot of the guys that it feels weird, it's going to feel like practice for me because I've been going against them for four years.''
NOTES: Offensive tackle E.J. Price will transfer. Price, a freshman from Dacula, Ga., was homesick and dealing with a family illness, Helton said. Helton also denied social media postings alleging there had been a physical altercation between him and Price, saying that if Price had punched him ''I wouldn't be here, I'd be dead. May make my face look better,'' Helton said.