USC offensive lineman Austin Jackson will enter NFL draft

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California left tackle Austin Jackson will skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

Jackson announced his decision Wednesday.

Jackson was the anchor of USC’s much-improved offensive line last season. The 6-foot-6 junior was named to the All-Pac-12 first team.

Jackson’s achievements were even more impressive because he donated bone marrow to his younger sister, Autumn, less than a month before the start of training camp.

Jackson’s draft stock has risen steadily in recent months. He is widely expected to be picked in the first round in April.

Jackson praised embattled USC coach Clay Helton in his departure statement.

“Coach Helton, thank you for your leadership and your constant support of me and my family both on and off the field,” Jackson wrote. “USC has truly been such a special place to call home for the last three years.”.

Helton and the Trojans face a challenge to reconfigure their offensive line after the departures of Jackson and starting right tackle Drew Richmond, who is out of eligibility.

USC could move Jalen McKenzie or Liam Jimmons to the tackle spots next season. The team also added six offensive linemen in its poorly regarded recruiting class last month.

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Helton still hasn’t hired a new defensive coordinator or special teams coordinator after firing Clancy Pendergast and John Baxter late last month.

More AP college football: https://apnews.Com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.Com/AP_Top25.

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