Two of the top performers for USC in their defeat at Utah were true freshman Adoree' Jackson and John "JuJu" Smith.
Smith had a touchdown grab in the first quarter while Jackson ran a kickoff back for a touchdown in the second quarter, accounting for two of the team's three scores. There is no doubt that both have made an immediate impact since arriving on campus; an impact that almost didn’t happen with two televised decisions that were two hours apart.
National Signing Day has become a national event in recent years with CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPNU and other media outlets having coverage of the event throughout the day. While most recruits make verbal commitments to their schools prior, they can’t officially sign until the first Wednesday of February. However, some recruits spend every last second leading up to the first day of the signing period to make a decision. They wait to choose a school on National Signing Day or flip their commitment to a different school and make their decision known on national television.
The 2014 National Signing Day was going smoothly for USC. By 11 a.m., the Trojans had already received National Letters of Intent, the important document that binds school and recruit, from the No. 1 tight end in the 2014 class (Bryce Dixon) and two top offensive lineman (Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao) along with other top talent.
However, USC coaches were going to have their eyes glued to the television at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. PST when Adoree’ Jackson and JuJu Smith were going to announce their decisions on where they were going to play college football.
Adoree’ Jackson sits behind a table in Gardena Serra High School’s gym. Jackson is viewed as one of the top prospects in the nation and the top uncommitted recruit.
Jackson is a speedster, having played wide receiver and defensive back in high school while also being a state champion in the long jump. After praying with his family outside the gym, Jackson sits at a table with a microphone in front of him and prepares to make his decision.
Adoree' Jackson later said he didn’t know what school he would pick until the day of his decision. Jackson pulls out a box from under the table. Normally, recruits would have hats on the table and then pick the hat that represents what school they attend. Adoree’ has some fun and pulls out a Gatorade bottle, his CIF State Championship ring, one of his favorite hats and his football cleats before he finally grabs a hat from the box that has USC’s logo on it.
The coaching staff watching at the McKay Center on the USC campus erupts in celebration. It is a huge get for the Trojans, but they are still waiting on another recruit that like Jackson, plays both offense and defense, and recently had a cousin that was hired as an assistant coach.
JuJu Smith is projected to be the next star to come out of Long Beach Poly High School and played safety and wide receiver for the Jackrabbits. School is about to end for the day and students and facility rush to the auditorium to see his decision.
Speculation had been that Oregon was making a really strong late push. However, Smith is very close to his family. Will he stay home and play nearby? If so, does that mean UCLA or USC? USC head coach Steve Sarkisian had brought Johnny Nansen onto his new staff. Nansen is Smith's cousin.
The director gives JuJu Smith the cue and he is live on ESPNU talking to commentators. As he gets ready to make his decision, he reaches for the Oregon hat but then moves his hand over and puts on a Trojans' cap.
USC coaches have to be excited as in the span of two hours; they get two of the top athletes in the country.
Fast-forward to today and USC is 5-3 after falling to Utah on a last second touchdown Saturday. But the future is bright with two freshmen that almost didn’t become Trojans. Jackson is currently starting at cornerback opposite Kevon Seymour and was just named the Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week after returning a 100-yard kickoff for a touchdown against the Utes.
Smith has earned the second spot on the wide receiver depth chart behind potential first round NFL draft pick Nelson Agholor and is second on the team with 32 catches for 427 yards and two touchdowns.
Both Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith have shown why they were heavily recruited coming out of high school and should be stars in the future. National Signing Day 2015 is less than 100 days away.