In a recent interview with SI.com's Pete Thamel, Clay Helton said that he hopes to get Adoree’ Jackson involved in six-to-eight offensive plays a game.
"Usually you're going to get—if we can hold [an opposing] team—the average in college football is [playing] about 68 [snaps] on defense. So, you get 12 extra plays. Now, is that six returns and six touches on offense? We held it to about a six- to eight-play series last year, a package we took into every game. And four were designed plays for him, and two or three were decoys. So, if we can get eight or 10 plays out of him a game offensively and let him be a punt returner, I think it would be advantageous."
It’ll be interesting to see how much Helton and (Offensive Coordinator) Tee Martin decide to use Jackson on offense this year. The Trojans relied upon Jackson for a spark last year. He caught 27 passes for 414 yards and 3 touchdowns, and returned 24 punts for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, the Trojans have developed a plethora of playmakers on offense who could take away the pressing need to use Jackson on offense.
There's no doubt that Jackson is a unique athletic talent, and the desire to get the ball into his hands as many times as possible is obviously tempting. However, he is integral to the Trojans defensive success in 2016. Therefore, keeping him as fresh as possible on defense needs to be the number one priority.
It's also worth bearing in mind that Jackson will be eligible to declare for the NFL Draft following this season. He will almost certainly do so as a cornerback, and will need to put as much work on tape at that position as possible. It's tough to bring the NFL into the conversation when thinking about the upcoming season, but the coaching staff does have a responsibility to put Jackson in the best possible position for future success.
By all means, Helton should use Jackson when they feel the team needs a spark. But, they need to try and limit Jackson’s offensive snaps to as few as possible. Keep him fresh on defense, and let him provide that spark as a punt returner. With the amount of athletic talent the Trojans have on offense – see Ronald Jones, Justin Davis, Dominic Davis and Aca’Cedric Ware -- there’s no point running the Trojans' best defensive player into the ground.