Should USC Football Start Dual-Threat Quarterback Sam Darnold?

Mar 8, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) during spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 8, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) during spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Should USC football take the plunge and start a dual-threat quarterback like Sam Darnold? It’s been a while since a Trojan QB ran, but maybe it’s time to go mobile.

USC head coach Helton has yet to name a starting quarterback but we do know it will be either Max Browne or Sam Darnold.

Browne is your prototypical drop back passer while Darnold is a dual-threat with a big arm.

If the latter wins the job, it could usher in a new era for the Trojans, hearkening back to an older one.

The last truly mobile quarterback to wear a cardinal and gold jersey was Rodney Peete.  When you think of Peete, you must think of his signature moment — the 1988 USC-UCLA game.

Both teams were very good that year and were consistently ranked in the top five.

The crosstown classic played in front of a sold out Rose Bowl, was a hard-hitting, physical game but Peete, even with a reported 102 degree temperature thanks to the measles, was able to pull out the win.

USC scored touchdowns while the players from Westwood managed only field goals.

The final score was USC 31, UCLA 22 and meant another Pac-10 title for the Trojans.

On that day, the mobile quarterback Peete supported by a good running game and an aggressive defense beat a very good throwing quarterback named Troy Aikman.

Peete wasn’t what you would call a true dual-threat by today’s standards unless you consider baseball his second threat. He was drafted twice by the Oakland Athletics to play baseball but instead opted for a 16-year NFL career.

Still Peete was athletic and very mobile for a quarterback, rushing for five touchdowns which is still a Trojan quarterback record. He finished second in the 1988 Heisman race to Barry Sanders and is considered by many to be an all-time top USC quarterback.

After the victory over UCLA, Peete’s Trojans ran into a true dual-threat quarterback in Notre Dame’s Tony Rice.

In the “Battle of the Unbeatens” between No. 2 USC and No. 1 Notre Dame, Rice broke off a 65-yard touchdown run around the right side early in the game.

Though Rice threw the ball just eight times, the Irish outgained the Trojans and Notre Dame went on to win their last national championship.

There’s a few takeaways to be had from the above stroll down memory lane.

Dual threat quarterbacks have been effective in college football and even at USC for many years.

What an advantage you have when your quarterback can sprint around the end and take it to the house.

I love the pro set as much as the next Trojan alumni but imagine a truly mobile quarterback after watching Cody Kessler lumber around over the last few years?

SEE ALSO: USC Is Rehashing Past Quarterback Debates in 2016

Kessler did skillfully avoid more than one blitzing lineman but he seemed frozen at times.  And he simply couldn’t tuck the ball for a long gain around the end in this timeline. Neither could Matt Barkley, John David Booty or Matt Leinart.

Seeing other teams find so much success with dual-threat options in recent years, it’s easy to understand why some have longed for a mobile Trojan who could rip off a 35-yard scoring run.

Maybe Sam Darnold is the USC player who can do just that.

New quarterbacks coach Tyson Helton had unparalleled success with dual-threat quarterback Joe Webb during his UAB days.

Webb still holds the NCAA record for back to back years gaining over 2,000 yards thru the air and 1,000 yards on the ground.

That’s maximizing the potential of the quarterback position.

Who coached the offensive line at UAB for that record-breaking performance? Neil Callaway, USC’s new offensive line coach.

Which begs the question: What about the possibilities at USC this fall?

Over the years big time football coaches have flipped the script strategically and won.

Alabama head coach Bear Bryant rolled in the Coliseum for a season opener in 1971 and left with a huge win. After being thumped the year before, his offense now used an offensive scheme called the wishbone and USC wasn’t — and couldn’t have been — prepared for it.

The element of surprise is extremely valuable in these epic clashes.

Darnold’s mobility would give USC a new wrinkle in the offensive attack. Even if he doesn’t get the start in September there will be situations during this season where playing him could make a lot of sense as well.

And that element of surprise can be especially useful if it can take the pressure off of other vulnerabilities.

RELATED: Max Browne Has Proven Himself Worthy to be USC’s Starter 

Last year the USC offensive line run blocked very well. In fact, two backs gained over 900 yards. When it came to pass protection, they struggled. The quarterback was sacked 38 times last season which ranked next to last in the Pac-12.

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Will first year offensive line coach Callaway teach better pass blocking techniques?  Sure, but there are still too many moving parts in Southern California. The offensive line hasn’t been a bastion of stability due to many injuries and coaching changes.

The season may have arrived where USC deploys a truly mobile quarterback as the starter a la Rodney Peete. In fact, this may be the season the Trojans call quarterback runs by design and allow an athlete in the backfield to keep defenses honest with his legs.

Whether Max Browne or Sam Darnold, USC’s quarterback will be making his first college start. Considering where things stand in a 2016 Troy, one player might just be the better fit to get the most out of the offense.

If USC’s coaches are not too risk averse, maybe they roll the dice on a dual-threat kid named Sam Darnold.