USC goes into season unproven at cornerback – Orange County Register

LOS ANGELES — One of the big questions for USC during training camp is how the Trojans will replace All-America cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. Unless you take into consideration sophomore Jack Jones said for the second straight year that he wants to win the Heisman Trophy.

How will USC handle promoting Jones and Heisman Trophy-favorite Sam Darnold simultaneously?

“Good luck, Sam,” Jones said Wednesday. “I feel like Sam is just going to get it. Just know that I’m coming for him.”

Now back to reality and figuring out the Trojans’ secondary. Jones sounds brash but also knows he needs to improve to make an impact in 2017.

“I won’t be anything if I don’t start on defense,” Jones said.

In the pass-happy Pac-12 Conference, USC needs three dependable cornerbacks on the field for most games. Iman Marshall returns as a two-year starter. What about the other two spots? Ajene Harris, who started four games last season at nickel back, is expected to be a starter. And so is Jones, despite a freshman season when he mostly performed on special teams.

He got significant playing time in the Rose Bowl but was inconsistent.

“I’ve got a long way to go,” Jones said.

Asked about good traits for a defensive back, Jones said, “I would say being patient. The best DB’s are patient.”

No one who saw Jones at USC last season would accuse him of being patient.

“Life is fast,” he said.

So even if those are the three starters, who else is going to contribute? Converted safety Jamel Cook got off to a terrific start last spring when he intercepted three passes in one practice but seemed to struggle learning to be a cornerback.

Secondary coach Ronnie Bradford said Wednesday he did not know whether Cook would play safety or cornerback this season. Will Cook be ready by the season opener against Western Michigan?

“That remains to be seen,” Bradford said.

There are other candidates: Sophomore Ykili Ross is playing nickel back and safety this week. Junior Isaiah Langley is still waiting for a chance to play during the season. Then there are two true freshmen: Je’Quari Godfrey and Greg Johnson.

This is why it hurts USC that Jonathan Lockett, who started five games last season, will undergo hip surgery and be out indefinitely. The Trojans are thin and fairly unproven. If a starter gets hurt or struggles, USC could be in trouble.

“Who’s going to step up and be consistent,” Bradford said. “It would be a toss up and guessing game (to say who…

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