USC hoping for a Domani Jackson breakout at Cotton Bowl

ARLINGTON, Texas — One of the benefits of bowl season for a college football program is the opportunity for younger players to get extra practices. The hope is that experience, as well as earning some playing time in the bowl game, propels the player forward with confidence into the next season.

And as USC prepares to face Tulane in the Cotton Bowl on Monday, the player who has stood out in that regard has been freshman cornerback Domani Jackson.

Jackson, the top-rated player in California in the 2022 recruiting class, arrived at USC out of Mater Dei High with big expectations. But his freshman season was impacted by injuries before he could even practice with the Trojans.

After suffering a knee injury in his senior season of high school, Jackson was limited for much of fall camp. He was able to get onto the field in Week 4 as part of a special package against Oregon State, recording two tackles. He played in the next two games, breaking up one pass, before a new injury kept him out for over a month.

He received 25 snaps across the last two weeks of the regular season, then was on the field for two special-team snaps in the Pac-12 championship game against Utah.

Now fully healthy, he has impressed his veteran teammates with his focus and effort during bowl practices this month.

“He goes out there every single day and takes advantage of every single rep that he gets and just a smart kid,” safety Calen Bullock said.

Added safety Max Williams, “With all the reps he’s been getting at practice, he’s going to play a lot [in the Cotton Bowl], so I’m excited to watch him.”

A healthy and productive Jackson would be a major benefit to USC during the 2023 season. The Trojans will lose top corner Mekhi Blackmon to graduation. The rest of USC’s cornerbacks this season have had middling results as the Trojans ranked 114th nationally in passing yards allowed per game (266.5).

Meanwhile, between Jackson’s multiple injuries and Zion Branch missing the season with a torn ligament in his knee, USC did not get to see much of its expected future at cornerback. That could change if Jackson delivers a confidence-building performance at the Cotton Bowl.

“He just had a mindset of he wants to get better. He knows he’s going to play a lot this game and leading up to next season he wants to be the guy,” Williams said. “So he’s been really working hard, getting a lot of reps in practice. So definitely excited to watch him.”

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USC quarterback Caleb Williams was practicing during the portion of practice Thursday that was open to media. Williams, this season’s Heisman Trophy winner who injured his hamstring during USC’s loss to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game, was wearing a compression sleeve on his left leg while stretching and throwing passes to the receiving line at AT&T Stadium.

Williams has maintained that he feels healthy enough to play against Tulane since suffering the injury earlier this month.

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