With national signing day on the horizon, 5-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson is the biggest fish left in the pond, despite also being one of the smallest.
Checking in at a generous 5'9'', Jackson is the No. 7 overall player and No. 1 cornerback in the country, per the 247Sports composite rankings. He played at Junipero Serra in Gardena, Calif., which explains why UCLA and USC are among his final choices, though he's also interested in SEC powers like Florida and LSU.
The Gators and Trojans are the two prohibitive favorites to land him, however, and the schools have jockeyed between being his favorite for the better part of this cycle. USC has the current lead with 78 percent on his 247Sports "Crystal Ball," but plugged-in recruiting analysts like JC Shurburtt, Justin Hopkins and Barton Simmons all have him predicted to Florida.
I, myself, am not as plugged into the recruiting circles, which makes it harder to offer accurate predictions. My sources are my eyes—my reading and my watching—not people close to the prospects or the university, people who can tell me the vibe of each official visit or which school feels confident about whom.
Accordingly, my best exercise isn't writing about where Jackson will choose to play on Wednesday; it's writing about where I think he should. Between USC and Florida, his two overwhelming favorites, which team would offer the better fit?
Jackson is listed as a cornerback by 247Sports, but that might be a misnomer.
Capable of playing both running back and receiver, he should likely be regarded as an athlete instead of pigeonholed as a defensive back. With his speed and quick-twitch instincts in small spaces, he would be very good in both the slot and as a De'Anthony Thomas-type scat back.
At first, that might make him a nostalgic favorite to play at USC, which has turned fellow Serra alumni like Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and George Farmer into receivers these past few years. Considering Jackson's experience on that side of the ball, the Trojans can pitch the success of his forerunners.
Still, Jackson is a defensive back first and foremost, and it's expected to be the position at which he begins his college career. The answer to "which school is a better fit" depends on which position he truly wants to play. Depending on where he sees himself having the biggest impact, each school could technically be the right choice.
Assuming that position is cornerback, as 247Sports lists him, the answer is USC. Unlike Florida, the Trojans are loaded with depth at receiver, starting with All-American candidate Nelson Agholor on the outside. He is flanked by up-and-comer Darreus Rogers and redshirt junior Victor Blackwell.
If Farmer—whose career has yet to get going because of injuries—and Steven Mitchell can both come back strong from torn ACLs last season, the Trojans will have more than enough talent to get by at receiver in 2014. They'll have more than enough to get by in the following years, as well.
The same may not be said, wholeheartedly, for cornerback, which was the weakest position on a very good defense last season. If Josh Shaw moves back to safety, where he may be asked to replace Dion Bailey, USC would be pressed for cornerbacks that could play well—and fast.
Jackson could start by the fall.
Florida, on the other hand, is the diametric opposite. Vernon Hargreaves III was the best freshman cornerback in college football last season, and that clause might even hold true if you omit the word "freshman."
Even after losing Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy, the Gators will have him for two more seasons, and they'll couple him with incoming 5-star cornerback Jalen Tabor, who looks about as game-ready as any player in the class of 2014. He enrolled early and will have the benefit of spring practice.
The depth chart is imposing behind (or next to) Tabor, as well. Young players like Brian Poole and Nick Washington will vie for playing time, as might 4-star recruit and fellow early enrollee Duke Dawson. Safety Cody Riggs may even slide over to his former position of cornerback, depending on how the other safeties progress.
Few teams are as set in the secondary as Florida, both now and for the next few years.
Because of that, and because of its absence of quality receiving options, Jackson might very well be asked to play receiver at Florida. Worse yet, he might be placed in some sort of offense-defense purgatory, like Will Muschamp did with Purifoy, which would ultimately hinder his development at both spots.
If Jackson wants to be a receiver at the next level, Florida might actually be his better fit.
He's also a big-time track star, so the Gators' esteemed track and field program might come into play for his decision. On matters external to "where will he flourish the most at cornerback," Florida seems more and more like the better option.
Only Jackson can answer those questions about his future, about where he sees it heading and how big of a deal playing offense and running track are to his decision. No one else can get into his head.
But given the information we have, which includes a projection to play defense at the next level, Jackson would likely be best-served staying at home and following the footsteps of so many Serra alums.
He is precisely what USC (or any defense) needs to combat the spread attacks of Oregon and Arizona State—both of which scored 62 points the last time they played the Trojans.
Some might crudely define what Jackson has as "SEC speed," and he'd no doubt be one of the fastest players in that league. He'll be one of the fastest players in the country.
But if he's to play cornerback in college, and if he wants to put it on display as soon as possible, that speed might actually be better served out West.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT
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