Pittman, Jackson excel at NFL combine

Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. caught 171 passes and 19 touchdowns for 2,519 yards over the course of four seasons at USC. (Ling Luo | Daily Trojan)

The 2020 NFL Combine concludes Monday after four days of drills, tests and interviews. The event takes place every year at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and offers a national platform for NFL prospects to showcase their skills in front of scouts from all 32 NFL teams. 

In past years, USC has been well represented at the combine; at least five Trojans had been invited to attend every year since 2015. That streak ended this year when only two Trojans, wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and offensive tackle Austin Jackson, were invited. 

However, even though participation was lacking at the combine for USC, talent was not. Both Pittman and Jackson project to be early draft picks and contributors for their future teams. With that in mind, here is how the pair fared at the combine. 

Michael Pittman Jr. 

Pittman entered the combine with modest expectations from analysts and plenty of room to improve his draft prospects. The senior measured in at 6-foot-4, 223 pounds with 32-and-a-half-inch arms and 9-and-a-quarter-inch hands, checking a lot of scouting boxes for size and length, but he needed to show that he was more than just a big bodied, one-dimensional deep-ball threat. 

On day one of the combine, the former Trojan standout did just that. 

Pittman soared above scouts’ expectations with a 4.52-second 40-yard dash. Though not particularly blazing fast for a receiver, his speed score — a metric that factors in a player’s height and weight with their 40 time — ranks Pittman in the 93rd percentile with a score of 111.2. 

Pittman also demonstrated his quickness and agility. In the short-shuttle drill, the wide receiver recorded a 4.14 time, good for second best among his entire position group. His 6.69 second 3-cone drill also made him one of only four wide receivers at the combine to run the drill in under seven seconds. Both times are critical for Pittman considering concerns regarding a lack of elusiveness. 

In another year, Pittman might have projected as a sure-fire second-round pick. Unfortunately for the former Trojan, he just so happens to be entering the draft during one of its deepest years at the receiver position. Still, Pittman made a lot of money for himself in Indianapolis and likely improved what was already a high draft stock with his performance. 

Austin Jackson

Even though Pittman received the bulk of fans’ attention last season — 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns will do that for a player — it’s actually Jackson who projects to be the highest Trojan selected come draft day. 

According to several mock drafts, Jackson will likely be a late first-round or early second-round selection. Still, the former Trojan demonstrated that he wouldn’t be satisfied by his pre-draft hype and put together an incredibly impressive performance for the scouts in attendance. 

Despite measuring in at 6-foot-4 and 322 pounds, Jackson clocked in an official 40 time of 5.07, good for the ninth best time among offensive linemen. Jackson also recorded a 31-inch vertical and 27 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, both good for eighth amongst offensive linemen. 

Jackson’s performance in Indianapolis only solidified what was already a very strong case to be one of the top linemen selected on draft day. 

Understandably, USC students, alumni and fans probably hoped to see better Trojan representation at the combine. Still, Pittman and Jackson’s potential at the next level offers plenty to be excited about. 

The 2020 NFL Draft will take place Apr. 23-25 in Las Vegas, Nev.