USC has had more than its fair share of success recruiting the wide receiver position in recent years. Between players putting up historic seasons and USC churning out high draft picks at the position, it isn’t hard to catch the attention of talented high school wide receivers. The Trojans recently grabbed a commitment from Quay Davis (Dallas/Skyline) and are on the hunt for more pass catchers in this class.
One target is Michael Jackson III (Las Vegas/Desert Pines), a 6-foot, 200-pound receiver who recently included USC among his top 11 schools, along with Cal, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, Tennessee, UCLA and Utah.
The Trojans are very much in the mix for Jackson, as the receiver has visited the campus and is eager to get back to Los Angeles once recruits are able to take visits again. Jackson speaks with USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and wide receiver coach Keary Colbert regularly and so far, he likes what he hears, as he has drawn some pretty favorable comparisons.
“They see a lot of Amon-Ra [St. Brown] in me,” Jackson said. “He’s had a lot of success at USC.”
Jackson also liked what he saw from USC last season, as Harrell’s Air Raid offense allowed four receivers to put up big numbers and move the ball around the field.
“Coach Harrell, going into his first year there, he did an amazing job with the offense,” Jackson said. “He was really spreading it out and getting the ball in the air a lot more. I loved watching that part of it.”
Jackson’s strengths as a wide receiver will allow him to play both inside and outside at the next level, something the USC coaches have already discussed with him. It’s a thought shared by many coaches from Jackson’s top schools, as he shared what they feel his strengths are on the football field.
“Coaches love that I can be a combo receiver,” Jackson said. “You can put me anywhere on the field–outside, inside–I’m going to get the job done.”
Jackson said coaches have raved about his explosiveness and his ability after the catch, as he does a good job of finding seams and splitting the defense, quickly taking a short throw and turning it into a 50 or 60-yard touchdown. He combines speed and strength in his lower half in a way that makes him very difficult for defenders to track down, let alone bring down.
Part of that ability on the football field comes from Jackson’s participation in a second sport, though it’s not one that is common for football players.
“I got into gymnastics about two and a half years ago,” Jackson said. “At first I was looking for something to improve my jumping ability, but then I found out I like it. It’s a fun sport. It helps in my body control and flexibility. I didn’t realize how much it helped me until I got back on the football field.”
Jackson doesn’t have access to his regular gym currently, but is looking forward to putting in another year participating in both sports.
He’s also found another advantage as a wide receiver, as his football mentor has plenty of knowledge as to exactly what defensive backs both fear and appreciate when going up against a wide receiver.
“My dad grew me up and taught me what he knows about the game,” Jackson said of his father, who played football for two years at Southern Illinois.
Jackson got into football when he was six, simply because he had no choice. His brothers played, so he played. While he struggled early on, he’s more than come into his own over the years. Initially a running back and cornerback, Jackson made the move to wide receiver in eighth grade. While his brothers, uncle and grandfather–all football players growing up–offer plenty of support as he appears to be on track to go the farthest with the sport, his father became his trainer during much of his growth.
“He played cornerback, so he had to study receiver,” Jackson said of his father. “But the way he trained me was from a corner’s perspective, so he knew what they like and what they don’t from a receiver.”
Jackson could have been committed by now, as he was ready to rush the recruiting process and jump into a class. But he’s since decided to pull things back and take his time, even as recruits across the country commit during this extended dead period.
“I want to make sure I’m making the right decision,” Jackson said. “With this whole pandemic, it’s hard to gauge if I can see myself there.”
Once visits are allowed again, Jackson said USC is absolutely a school he will go see again, adding that it would probably be one of the first trips he takes. He also said he’d like to see some of the schools on the East Coast that have offered, as coaches have said he won’t get a full appreciation of the school unless he steps on campus.
“I want to get some confirmations, see different things and make sure I’m making the right decisions,” Jackson said, adding that he won’t wait too long after that to decide. “I’m not going to wait until signing day or anything like that. I want to try to commit either before or during the season.”
It will be interesting to see what happens following those visits, if Jackson is able to take them. USC’s proximity to his home is a big selling point for the receiver. He said staying somewhat close to home has always felt like a good options, as the ability for his family to make the relatively easy trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to see him play “would be a blessing.”
Jackson has a good chance to be part of an absolutely loaded wide receiver group if he ultimately chooses the Trojans. USC signed five tremendously talented wideouts in the 2019 class, then added Gary Bryant and Joshua Jackson in the 2020 class. Davis has already committed to USC in the 2021 class, and there’s a chance that St. Brown could still be on campus for his senior year.
There’s also a chance Jackson could be part of a major influx of talent from Las Vegas to the USC roster over the next two years. At his school, two-way lineman Tiaoalii Savea and defensive tackle Braezhon Ross hold USC offers. And in the 2022 class, USC has already offered a handful of Nevada prospects, in Las Vegas Bishop Gorman standouts, linebacker Cyrus Moss, safety Zion Branch, offensive tackle Jake Taylor and cornerback Fabian Ross. USC has also offered Jackson’s 2022 teammate, running back Jovantae Barnes, and Reno (Nev.) Bishop Manogue lineman Sioape Vatikani. The talent boom in that area is noticeable.
“I think even before this upswing, the talent has always been here,” Jackson said of Nevada and specifically, the Las Vegas area. “Recently we’re getting a little recognition, but I still wouldn’t even say it’s the recognition we deserve. There are still a lot of kids I know that aren’t getting recruited but are really talented and gifted…But now that we have this thing rolling, you’re going to see even more talent coming out of Vegas–especially this year and next year.”