USC football recruiting has had many successes since Clay Helton took over. USC’s newest offensive tackle for the 2017 season is Austin Jackson from Phoenix, Arizona. The North Canyon High School product is rated as the 35th best player and 8th best offensive tackle in the nation according to the 247Sports player rankings. The 4/5-star Army All-American is a physically gifted player who has the potential to become the next offensive lineman to be drafted in the first round out of USC.
Austin Jackson’s size is ideal:
Listed at 6’6" 280 lbs., Jackson has the optimal size for an offensive tackle. He needs to add mass and strength but that is normal for most high school lineman. Jackson’s length and size is elite and is the primary reason behind his outstanding upside. At 6’6", Jackson’s height is perfect for protecting a quarterback’s blindside. Plus, he has long arms which are also ideal for pass protection. Jackson’s frame could not be any better for an offensive tackle, giving the Trojans’ coaching staff an excellent foundation on which to build the next NFL lineman out of USC.
Like many high school players, he still needs to add some weight:
The only issue that prevented Jackson from being among the top two or three linemen in the 2017 class is his lack of weight. At 280 pounds, Jackson will need to add 20-30 pounds before he can reach his true potential as a run blocker. In pass protection, his length and hand usage should allow him to immediately stand out, but he will struggle against larger edge rushers and in run blocking as long as he is under 300 pounds. Time with strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis will be paramount in Jackson reaching his full potential.
Improving his footwork could be an issue:
Another key part of being an offensive tackle is footwork. Even if Jackson develops his frame to its fullest potential, the inability to use his feet could prevent him from becoming the player he can be at his peak. Thus far in his career, Jackson has not needed to perfect this area of his game. As a result, he will need to work on his footwork before he can earn a starting spot. If he is unable to perfect this aspect of his skillset, the Trojans would likely have to move him inside. Considering that his frame is perfect for being an offensive tackle, this move would be a disappointing development for the USC coaching staff.
The USC Trojans Roster is wide open now but Jackson may not be a starter until 2018:
Looking ahead to next fall, Jackson has the opportunity to earn a place in the rotation right away. He does not have the size to be an immediate starter, but his length and athleticism are perfect for making an early impact in pass protection. USC will need to replace both starting tackles in 2017, opening up an opportunity for playing time that Jackson can capitalize on. Chuma Edoga is the early favorite to start at one of those spots, but the place opposite him should be up for grabs. Jackson probably will not take this place right away, but if he can add 10-15 pounds relatively quickly, it is possible that he could earn more snaps as the season progresses. Jackson’s primary goal in 2017 should be to add weight and build his skillset with an eye on being a starter in 2018.
Despite his elite ranking in the 2017 class, Jackson is more of a player for the future rather than the present. USC does have a need at tackle in the immediate future depending on the development of prior fringe players such as Jordan Austin, Clayton Johnston, and Roy Hemsley. Unfortunately, Jackson is probably not going to fill that role in 2017. The areas he needs to improve take time and that will likely limit his playing time next season.
Austin Jackson could develop rather quickly into one of the best linemen in the country:
That being said, he has the raw ability to start for the Trojans and become one of the best tackles in the country. Jackson is the epitome of a player with top-tier upside and with proper coaching and development, he could easily be another first round draft pick to come out of USC.