Austin Jackson, the anchor of an improved USC offensive line last season, is out of the NFL.
Junior left tackle announced in social networks who will give up his last season of eligibility at the USC and testify for the draft.
“USC has really been such a special place to call home for the past three years,” Jackson wrote. “Thanks to the guys on this team. I couldn’t imagine a better group to play. It has been an honor to be part of this incredible Trojan brotherhood and go to war with you every day. “
Last fall, before being named for the first All-Pac-12 team in its last season at the USC, it was not clear when Jackson would be ready to join the team. Jackson, a native of Phoenix, spent most of the summer waiting for news about when he could donate bone marrow to his younger sister, Autumn, who suffers from the rare genetic disorder Diamond Blackfan Anemia.
Jackson underwent surgery in July and returned to the fall camp less than a month later. He proceeded to lead a change in the USC’s offensive line that helped his action project to skyrocket.
The 6-foot 6-inch, 310-pound lineman’s departure leaves a hole in the left side of the Trojan’s offensive line. With the Drew Richmond graduate transfer right tackle out of eligibility, the USC will now have to replace its two initial offensive tackles next season. If Alijah Vera-Tucker makes a surprise decision to follow Jackson in the draft, the offense could be in a desperate situation in advance.
Jalen McKenzie, who started last season as a right guard, and Liam Jimmons, who impressed on his transition from the defensive line to the offensive last season, could be options to replace Jackson in the left tackle. The USC signed six offensive linemen during the initial signing period in hopes of mitigating their losses in the left and right tackle.
For Jackson, the decision to testify seemed clear. Draft forecasters have suggested that it is a likely first or second round pick. Many agree that Jackson remains a rough prospect, but one with the size of the prototype and athletics that NFL scouts covet.
In his announcement, Jackson thanked his family, as well as USC coach Clay Helton for “his leadership and his constant support for me and my family, both on and off the field.”
“The bond of the Trojan family is for life,” he wrote.
The USC is still awaiting a decision from Tyler Vaughns, the junior junior, who has also been considering whether to return or testify for the draft.