Four Trojans earn All-Pac-12 First Team honors
Tuesday morning, the Pac-12 Conference released its all-conference football awards and four Trojans earned first-team all-conference honors. Selections included junior cornerback Adoree’ Jackson earning Defensive Player of the Year and redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold being recognized as the Freshman Offensive Player of the Year.
Jackson’s 51 tackles, four interceptions, 11 pass breakups and two fumble recoveries on defense earned him recognition as one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back.
Jackson is also one of four finalists for the Paul Hornung Award honoring the nation’s most versatile player thanks to an exceptional three-way performance this season with 19 punt returns for 302 yards (15.9 average) and two touchdowns, and 22 kick returns for 671 yards (30.5 average) and two touchdowns.
While his offensive role was diminished in 2016, Jackson still rushed for 49 yards on five carries and caught a 52-yard touchdown pass against Notre Dame last Saturday.
In that 45-27 win, Jackson had a historic day by collecting 291 all-purpose yards and also scoring on a 55-yard punt return and a 97-yard kick return.
Along with Jackson becoming the first Trojan to win the Defensive Player of the year since linebacker Rey Maualuga in 2008, Darnold is the first Trojan since Matt Leinart to throw multiple touchdown passes in eight-straight games this season.
Darnold took over for Max Browne in week four against Utah, and has since rallied USC to a 9-3 overall record thanks to his 213-of-313 passing for 2,633 yards and a USC freshman-record 26 touchdowns with just eight interceptions.
On the ground, Darnold rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns, the most in a season by a USC quarterback since Reggie Perry tallied 254 yards in 1991.
Joining Jackson on the Pac-12 First Team are redshirt senior offensive tackles Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler.
In terms of the Pac-12 second team, junior offensive guard Damien Mama, junior wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and sophomore running back Ronald Jones II were named along with defensive players sophomore linebacker Cameron Smith and redshirt senior defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu.
After a win in the season finale sealed the Colorado’s fate as the Pac-12 South Champs, USC’s place as the 11th-best team in the new College Football Playoff rankings secures the Trojans a place in one of the New Year’s six bowl games.
If Colorado loses in the Pac-12 Championship game, USC could secure a spot in the Cotton Bowl against the undefeated Western Michigan Broncos or even in the Rose Bowl against the Michigan Wolverines if the Washington Huskies make their way into the College Football Playoff.
Washington and Colorado will battle for Pac-12 supremacy Friday at 6 p.m. in Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium.