Lawrence Jackson attended Inglewood High School. He was a standout defensive lineman and middle linebacker, and also participated on the school’s track team. Exiting high school, Jackson earned a 4 star grade from Rivals.com and was considered a prize in USC's replete 2003 recruiting class. His numbers exiting high school were:
Wt: 245 lbs
Forty: 4.9 secs
Bench max: 350 pounds
Squat max: 405 pounds
Vertical: 28 inches
To appreciate Jackson’s college career you must know two things:
-USC employs both 4-3 and 3-4 alignments.
-Jackson was frequently subbed out.
As far as I can tell, there is no official restriction on the size of a college football team’s roster. I searched the entire PDF of the official NCAA Football rules for 2004, and the word "roster" doesn’t occur once. A team as a large as USC retains so many players, in fact, that players inevitably share numbers. Rules prohibit two players of the same number taking the field, but that’s about as restrictive as it gets. There’s no semblance of parity, a top program can and usually does have better backups than a weaker program’s regulars. So, on a hugely talented and hugely deep program like USC, a defensive line has regulars, but few or no every down players. Pro caliber talent passes through with little fanfare, and starting spots are highly contested.
We can then say that Jackson has never been a fulltime starter. That can be worrying or promising. It is, in fact, a bit of a chicken or egg dilemma. Jackson recorded 82.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage in 4 years, participating in ~60% of the team’s defensive snaps. That’s a very rough estimate projected from the 4 games I’ve had a chance to study. Jackson started 51 of 52 games at USC. He has been both consistently healthy and played at a very high level when on the field. One might argue that he’d wear down with consistent use, but one might equally argue his numbers would jump had he played on a thinner roster where he could have participated in every or near every snap. Either way, his body’s been saved some abuse.
Jackson experienced a relatively poor junior season. After recording 10 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss his sophomore season, Jackson recorded only 4 sacks and 11tackles for a loss his junior season. He was hampered with a strained groin for most of the early season. He did not record a sack, and only recorded 3.5 tackles for a loss before his November 11th bust out against Oregon: 3 solo sacks and 4 tackles for a loss.
Jackson returned his senior season under the advice of current NY Giant Steve Smith. The other Steve Smith. He posted his finest season, 10.5 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss.
Jackson was never considered the best player on his team. He was consistently surrounded by elite talent. But he never lost his starting spot. Year after year, competing against pro talent, Kenechi Udeze, drafted in the 1st, Shaun Cody, 2nd, and Frostee Rucker, 3rd, Jackson persevered. He’s the unsexiest of first round picks. He always played well, but on a glamorous program, never stood out. His draft stock certainly did not benefit from the recent struggles of former Trojans. If we start from Jackson’s first season starting, 2004, USC has produced 17 first day picks. The best, easily Lofa Tatupu. The next, probably Deuce Lutui. Many of the rest, Mike Williams, Shaun Cody, Dominique Bird, Reggie Bush, have been disappointments. His play, though, and his résumé, argue he’ll break the trend. We shall see.
. . .
Scouting report to follow.