Hufanga: Former USC teammate Jackson can ‘do it all’ for 49ers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
After playing two years together at the University of Southern California, Talanoa Hufanga couldn’t be happier to be back on the field with Drake Jackson.
“Drake is my dog,” Hufanga told reporters after practice on Wednesday. “He’s for sure a great dude, first off … Great guy off the field.”
The pair were Trojan teammates during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, which saw Jackson make the switch from the defensive line as a freshman to linebacker his sophomore year. Hufanga, a year above Jackson, played safety all three years at USC.
While Hufanga made it clear on Wednesday that he and Jackson were close even off the gridiron, he got an up-close look at what the eventual 2022 second-round draft pick can do on the field before he ever became a 49er.
“I think it’s kind of understandable why he was a second-round pick,” Hufanga said. “He’s just explosive.”
During his three seasons at USC, Jackson had 57 solo tackles and 25 tackles for loss to go along with his 12.5 sacks and two interceptions. His 12 tackles for loss in 2019 were good enough for No. 7 in the Pac-12. He also ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in sacks in 2019.
Hufanga was a show-stopper himself as a Trojan, earning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2020 and making multiple appearances on the conference leaderboards throughout his college career.
Now, Hufanga is excited to watch Jackson grow into an NFL-caliber defensive end as he navigates his own path as a starting safety this season. On Wednesday, he explained what makes Jackson so great.
“[Jackson] can bend really well around the edge,” Hufanga said. “I don’t think you guys see a lot of 260, 270 guys doing cartwheel backflips, and so a guy like Drake Jackson can do it all.”
With a talented defensive line in San Francisco, Jackson likely won’t be starting much this season. But whenever he gets his first NFL sack, he can rest assured his fellow Trojan will be right by his side.
“[I’m] excited to play with him again, and hopefully he can make some plays just like he did in college,” Hufanga said. “And I would love to celebrate with him, for sure.”