In their first official practice as collegiate athletes over on Howard Jones Field, the up-and-coming freshmen stars were put under the microscope. As fans anxiously packed the far-east side awaiting the big moment, one of the best plays of the day was made just in front of USC's Dedeaux Field.
That young man, who strongly stood out during the nearly three-hour practice, was freshman JuJu Smith. The lanky weapon hustled down the far sideline, extended his right arm out and snatched the football into his grasp. This all while falling towards the ground and sliding near the pylon for one fantastic catch; wowing everyone in attendance.
The freakish prospect was used primarily on the offensive side of the ball Monday night, but rest assured his tools will continue to be spread all over the football field. Especially if he continues to translate that great physical frame, which earned him five-star honors out of Long Beach Poly H.S. along with some continued mental development.
Sark said JuJu Smith looked very comfortable out at WR today and that Adoree' Jackson did some electric things with the ball in his hands.— Evan Budrovich (@evanbud) August 5, 2014
Another pass-catching target to watch will be Bryce Dixon, the former leading target for five-star USC quarterback commit Ricky Town (St. Bonaventure). Even before we knew about the academic issues surrounding Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, Dixon's noteworthy presence over the middle was both promising and reassuring.
Coach Sarkisian immediately praised his young talent when addressing the upcoming rotation at tight end. Joining Randall Telfer as the lone scholarship tight ends on the roster, along with walk-ons Chris Willson and Connor Spears, the opportunities to contribute will both increase but also intensify in the coming practices.
Sarkisian mentioned that given the physical tools he brings to the game, combined with a unique mental maturity to read defenses, Dixon "will be plenty good enough to play on this team this Fall." Now in terms of how much he plays, Sark left the door open for now. But that doesn't mean we won't be hearing his name plenty more in the coming weeks.
Offense and that increased rhythm may garner the most chatter but depth on the defensive side could lead USC to the ever-looming College Football Playoff.
The biggest mystery surrounding the bevy of two-way stars has to be Adoree' Jackson, a freakish five-star athlete so talented at wide receiver, cornerback, special teams ace returner (you name it) that you could make a logical argument to put him on the field at any given moment. At the end of the day, however, USC's now 66-man scholarship roster holds an uncanny necessity for players with great versatility.
What the Trojan coaching staff has done, at least to this point, is allow Adoree' Jackson, Ajene Harris, JuJu Smith (guys like that) the opportunity to play all over the field and find where things just stick. Jackson started the day on defense, playing outside cornerback with the second-team defense, and his impact was instantly felt.
Combine that with another 15 or so plays catching passes on the offensive side of the ball and the Trojans talented experiment will continue to blossom over the next few days of Fall Camp. But that being said, the young prospect has already caught the eyes of talented senior defensive back and possible secondary running mate Josh Shaw.
"I can only imagine from day one it has to be tough, but Adoree' is a hard worker. His room is actually right next to mine in the dorm, and we were up late last night just studying. Adoree' is really a guy that just wants it."
One surprising young gun that really caught the staffs attention was cornerback Lamont Simmons. This young man is long, nasty and plays with some swagger in press coverage. Batting numerous passes away from top receivers, including a nice pass breakup on a curl route against Darreus Rogers, Simmons definitely stepped up in the secondary.
The Trojans are certainly low in numbers at the corner position, but young guys like Simmons, John Plattenburg, Jonathan Lockett --who each stood out in Coach Sarkisian's mind for their ability to handle the expectations and fast pace of the opening practice, featuring over 200 total plays-- all could make an immediate impact.
As recruiting continues to get better and better the coaching staff hopes they can continue to experiment with great talents, only better crafting them into weapons that best suite the teams need both here and moving forward.