How will USC Football replace nine lost starters in 2018?

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /
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Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

The defending Pac-12 champions have nine starters to replace in 2018. Who will step up to help USC Football retain the conference crown?

The 2017 season may not have ended exactly as the Trojans wanted, but USC Football still came away with a Pac-12 Championship for the first time since 2008.

The next task for Clay Helton and company is maintaining, and building on that success. But to do so, the Trojans will first have to figure out how they’ll replace a whole lot of production.

USC loses their quarterback, leading rusher and leading receiver on offensive. They’ll also be without two of three defensive captains on defense, plus the team leader in tackles for loss and sacks.

Who will step up to replace those results? Here’s a look at USC’s best bet to replace each lost starter in 2018:

Sam Darnold | Quarterback

The dynamic redshirt sophomore quarterbacked the Trojans to a Rose Bowl and Pac-12 Championship with an uncanny ability to make massive plays. His shoes are big ones to fill.

What’s being replaced?

  • 31 total TDs, 13 INTs, 4,143 yards, 148.09 passer rating in 2017
  • 21-4 record as a starter
  • USC’s total offense record holder
  • All-Pac-12 First Team
  • USC’s Co-Most Valuable Player for 2018

Who can replace him?

Back in 2009, the Trojans held a quarterback competition between experienced understudy Aaron Corp, exciting transfer Mitch Mustain and freshman phenom Matt Barkley. Now they’re set to hold a quarterback competition between a experienced understudy Matt Fink, exciting newcomer Jack Sears and freshman phenom JT Daniels.

Barkley won the job in 2009, ushering in a new era at USC. The question now is which path the Trojans will walk this time around.

All three candidates bring positives and negatives to the table.

Fink has been in the system longest and is the only one with actual in-game experience. But he’s a limited passer compared to the other two.

Sears has a higher ceiling than Fink as a passer and playmaker, but he’s also more erratic and less experienced.

Daniels is a legitimate five-star prospect with all the attributes USC would want in a starter, but he won’t have the advantage of spring ball like Barkley had and will have to pick up the playbook extremely quickly to elevate himself to starter during fall camp alone.

Still, as with Barkley, the pure talent will probably win out. If quarterbacks of Darnold’s quality are going to leave for the NFL after three years anyways, might as well get the Daniels era started now.

Prediction: JT Daniels