Our countdown of USC’s most intriguing players to watch in spring practice continues. Note: This is a list of guys who have the most to gain and are best positioned to do so.
For each player, we examine the depth chart, back story, outlook, key questions and how their role could swing in spring.
2. JACK JONES
Profile: 5-11, 170, sophomore
Current pecking order: He’s in the driver’s seat to succeed Adoree’ Jackson as a starting cornerback, ahead of Isaiah Langley, Ajene Harris and Keyshawn Young.
Background: The Long Beach Poly standout had a curious recruitment, at times hardly acknowledging his obvious interest in USC. While that was largely perceived as a smokescreen, the Trojans were dealing with so much internal unrest in 2015 that you couldn’t blame Jones if he ever seriously considered taking his talents elsewhere. Coach Clay Helton and Co. made sure he didn’t, believing Jones could impact all three phases of the game in a manner similar to Adoree’. We’ve heard that recruiting pitch with a few players in recent years, so naturally there’s some skepticism. He never did see the field on offense as a rookie. In fact, Jones really had just a couple extended cameos on defense last season, including in the Rose Bowl. Otherwise he was primarily a special teams player.
Outlook: Jones expects greatness from himself. This isn’t a particularly unique disposition for a USC football player, except that with Jones it’s more palpable. You might remember him saying just before last year’s season opener, “I expect myself to win the Heisman this year.” Jones, of course, wasn’t even in contention to start. But it speaks to how he thinks. That he is trying to succeed the Thorpe Award winner or used to prep with former five-star and current teammate Biggie Marshall is happenstance in Jones’ mind. As he said, he expects to be elite. Helton does too, and you can see DC Clancy Pendergast working hard to tap into his great potential. He’s one of the best athletes on the team and his ball skills particularly stand out, though he takes more chances than the staff is comfortable with on passes downfield. The stage is basically set for Jones to be a starting cornerback, and he's off to a fast start this spring. For some, if he excels here, whatever he does elsewhere is a bonus. The plan is to mix Jones in on offense in the coming weeks and have him compete for a lead role on kick returns. His top priority, though, will remain cornerback, where there’s nothing keeping him from proving he is as good as advertised.
Key questions: Is he ready to play full time? Can he meet his (and our) expectations this year? Where else will he contribute?
Swing potential: He can cement himself as a starting cornerback with a role on offense and/or special teams. Worst-case scenario: He battles for playing time on defense while putting other ambitions on the backburner.
17 FOR '17
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