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From the Snoop League to Pac-12, Jack Jones is next up at USC

LOS ANGELES -- On signing day in 2016, rapper Snoop Dogg tweeted out a video of an interview he conducted with Long Beach Poly High’s Jack Jones to announce his college commitment.

Jones was asked by the iconic Long Beach, California, rapper how much his relationships with his friends he went to school with factored into his decision.

“Not really that much because they know it’s my life,” Jones said. “I got to go on and play football because in a couple years I’m not going to choose where I’m going, they’re going to choose me.”

It was a nonchalant statement of fact: Jones’ college, which he announced moments later as USC, would serve as another layover on his journey from the Snoop Youth Football League to the NFL.

Playing in the Snoop League, Jones became friends with another future USC cornerback: Iman Marshall. They were on different teams and Marshall is a year ahead in school, but as kids they talked about one day playing together at Poly. And they did. For two years, Marshall and Jones started opposite each other as corners in a Long Beach Poly secondary that for one year, 2013, also featured JuJu Smith-Schuster (then known as John Smith) at safety.

Marshall and Jones developed into two of the most high-profile recruits in the country and while they talked about playing together again in college, they were by no means a package deal. Still, both couldn’t resist the appeal of staying close to home and playing at USC, where they would team up again.

“It’s going to be a great storyline one day,” Marshall said. “When we can tell our kids and our futures wives and everything like that.”

Jones arrived last year as ESPN’s No. 10-ranked cornerback and the No. 96 player overall, but there wasn’t a significant role for him to step into right away. Marshall, who started two games the past two seasons, had one cornerback spot locked down and opposite him was Adoree’ Jackson. Jones was an exceptional punt returner in high school, but, again, with Jackson on the roster his talent there wasn’t needed. His overall impact was minimal and usually reserved for special teams.

Jackson’s decision to leave for the NFL means that will likely change.

Jones has been taking most of the vacant reps with the first team since spring practice started last week and is the favorite to win the job in his familiar spot opposite Marshall. Jones made it clear that’s what he wants, but he also doesn’t expect to be handed anything.

“It’s not my spot to lose. It’s no one’s to lose,” he said. “It’s just up for grabs. It’s free.”

It was the appropriate stance to take publicly, even though there is every indication it is, in fact, his to lose.

“The confidence that kid has is very impressive,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “He’s not acting like a rookie. He’s kind of in his element because he has the opportunity to compete and fill some big shoes.”

Even going back to the recruiting process, Jones has often been compared to Jackson. They’re roughly the same size, play the same position on defense and possess a similar ability to make plays in the return game and at receiver. And now that Jones is in position to replace Jackson, those comparisons are going to keep coming. It’s inevitable.

It should be a flattering comparison, but Marshall, who started opposite Jackson the past two years, cautioned against building Jones up to be Adoree’ 2.0.

“I feel like let him be him. Judge him for who he is,” Marshall said. “Don’t judge him to another person because that’s not fair to him because he doesn’t meet the expectations, then y’all are going to bash him for not doing what he did.

“I feel like he’s going to meet and surpass those expectations, but judge him for what he does and what he brings to the table. We appreciated Adoree’ when he came here. He was a wonderful talent and he’ll be remembered forever, but let’s embrace Jack Jack for who he is and what he brings to the game as well.”

When USC resumes practice next week after taking off this week for spring break, Jones will get another week focusing solely on defense, but Helton said he’ll start getting reps with the offense in Week 3.

“I’m trying to get every job I can," Jones said. “Receiver, quarterback, anything. I’m trying to play football.”