Michael Jackson III had performed only a single snap by USC’s first six video games, ready and ready and ready for his flip till two Saturdays in the past, when the sophomore receiver was referred to as upon on the most crucial second of the season.
It was third and eight, with simply over six minutes remaining, and the Trojans stood on the doorstep of the pink zone, deadlocked late with Utah. USC star receiver Jordan Addison, having suffered a leg damage, was relegated to crutches on the sideline. So Lincoln Riley despatched Jackson to fill the void left by the 2021 Biletnikoff Award-winning wideout. He didn’t disappoint.
Whereas Utah unleashed a blitz, Jackson exploded ahead for a number of steps, earlier than retreating instantly towards the road of scrimmage, the place a display screen cross awaited. Tahj Washington threw a block. A lane opened. And Jackson, who hadn’t caught a cross since final December, made a defender miss earlier than striding into the tip zone, turning his first catch right into a 20-yard, go-ahead landing.
“We had a lot of confidence based on what we’ve seen on the practice field the last several weeks that he was going to make the play,” Riley stated of Jackson after Utah mounted a comeback to beat USC, 43-42. “I think he’s got a really bright future here. We didn’t think twice about calling and doing [the play]. It was an easy decision.”
USC may need no different alternative in its return from the week off however to depend on reserve receivers, like Jackson, to fill the void left by Addison, who nonetheless hasn’t been seen collaborating at observe because the loss at Utah. Riley characterised Addison — in addition to linebackers Eric Gentry (ankle) and Ralen Goforth (hand) — as “day to day,” however the standing of all three key contributors stays in query forward of Saturday‘s game at Arizona.
“I think everybody’s going to be tremendous,” Riley stated Tuesday. “We’ll see how they progress throughout the week.”
If Addison isn’t in a position to play, a number of different Trojan pass-catchers might get the prospect to show how a lot they’ve progressed.
Jackson spent a lot of the eight months earlier than his breakout rating struggling by one strained hamstring after one other. (He estimates six in complete.) “It was a long road,” Jackson stated final week.
“I know his frustration level was at a boiling point,” Riley stated. “But again, another great example of, if you hang in there, then good things can happen.”
Washington needed to maintain on final spring and summer season as switch receiver after switch receiver piled onto an already dense depth chart at USC. The main returning receiver on the roster from 2021, Washington needed to work his method again up the pecking order this season.
He did simply that by the primary half of the season. Riley lately deemed Washington “one of the most valuable players on the team,” whereas singling out his work as a blocker and on particular groups, along with his pass-catching.
If Addison is pressured to overlook any time, Washington might be thrust into extra of a number one function.
“It’s only up from here,” stated Washington, who has 214 receiving yards, the third most on the workforce. “That’s the bright side, seeing where we’re at right now and knowing how much we can get better.”
The subsequent three weeks — with matchups towards three groups within the backside half of the Pac-12 — ought to provide loads of alternatives for different pass-catchers to emerge. Riley additionally famous freshman receiver C.J. Williams as one other participant he anticipated to have an effect over the season’s second half. Washington provided an identical endorsement.
“Seeing his growth till now, his understanding of the game, you can tell it’s starting to slow down for him,” Washington stated of Williams. “He’s really getting the hang of everything. I’m excited to see his future.”
Nobody in USC’s receiving corps has waited longer for his marquee second than sixth-year senior Josh Falo. It had been practically three years since Falo had caught a cross earlier than he reeled in two for touchdowns towards Utah.
The years in between included some darkish instances for the tight finish. Falo wouldn’t share any particulars of what he went by with reporters, however stated solely that he “wouldn’t wish that [experience] upon anyone”.
Just like Washington and Jackson, his expertise at USC has quickly improved in current weeks. His function continues to broaden. Over the past three video games, Falo has performed 88 snaps.
With USC sure to dig deeper into its depth at receiver within the coming weeks, there are many probabilities for additional progress from right here.
“I’ve had my ups and downs during my time here, but this, I mean, I wanted it to be like this for my last year,” Falo stated. “But whatever it was, good or bad, I was going to ride with this team no matter what. I’m just glad the ball fell on the good side of it.”