USC Football and Basketball Mailbag: Team Fink, Sears or Daniels? (3/15)

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

Reign of Troy’s mailbag includes picking a side in the USC Football quarterback battle, offensive line linchpins and the future of Trojan Basketball.

USC Football is consumed in a quarterback battle this Spring Camp while it’s easy to look ahead to USC Basketball’s future even though the Trojans’ season is continuing in the NIT.

With plenty of questions on tap, it’s time for the mailbag…

Q: Two years ago, Alicia was Team Darnold. You were obv dead on. It’s way early still, but who ya got so far? And if they’re both wack, I wanna know that too. — Flop Wedge

A: It’s too early to be Team Anyone at this point. Matt Fink and Jack Sears have only just begun their race to replace Sam Darnold and neither disqualified themselves through the first week of Spring Camp.

We already know their limitations. Fink doesn’t have great arm strength (one of his three interceptions so far was a direct result of that, forcing an underthrown ball long). But he does have experience and can win the job by displaying superior decision-making.

Sears has a big arm, but he struggles with touch, firing balls over the heads and off the hands of his receivers with too much regularity. He can win the job by getting his accuracy and touch under control.

Still, as one week of Spring Camp confirmed initial impressions, my prediction remains the same: JT Daniels will lead USC in 2018.

Normally that’d feel exceedingly bold, picking a quarterback who should be in high school this fall, but enough true freshman have found success at the position for other programs. Why not start the Daniels era now?

Q: Seems like we have some unexpected scholarship spots open. What position would you most prefer we get a grad transfer at?? — Dave

A: First, some background on the scholarship spots open.

USC came out of Signing Day with 90 scholarship players on the roster, five more than the 85-man roster limit. That meant they needed to see at least five Trojans depart in order to accommodate their 2018 recruiting class. When the Spring Camp roster was set, USC had trimmed eight names from the ledger: medical retirees Cole Smith and Nathan Smith, transfers Roy Hemsley, Jalen Greene, Jamel Cook and Olajuwon Tucker, former walk-on graduate Grant Moore and Joseph Lewis, who is indefinitely suspended for an alleged domestic violence incident.

Now down to 82 scholarships, USC does have some room to bolster the roster in the graduate transfer market, though it’s not clear that’s something they’re interested in.

If they are, the first place to look on offense could be running back. With Stephen Carr out this spring due to back surgery, his ability to reach his star potential as a sophomore is now in serious doubt. And while the Trojans have Aca’Cedric Ware and Vavae Malepeai as truly capable backs, both have unreliable injury histories.

A mercenary running back would be a welcome insurance policy, if nothing else.

Of course, the obvious answer is quarterback, but again, why put off a new era at QB for another year?

Q: Can you speak to what are the linchpins are for the offense line to be competitive? — Praxis

A: Toa Lobendahn’s health is the biggest linchpin for USC’s offensive line in 2018. He made it through most of the 2017 season without injury issues cropping up, but he had to sit out the first week of spring camp with a sore knee.

Along with being one of USC’s most veteran lineman, Lobendahn will allow USC to replace long-time center Nico Falah without missing a beat in terms of experience and leadership.

If Lobendahn is unavailable, the Trojans will have to turn to either redshirt freshman Brett Neilon or true freshman Justin Dedich. Both may have been very highly rated recruits, but throwing them into such an important position this early in their careers would be a major concern.

Q: How do you think the basketball team will shape up next year with the personnel they will lose this season? — HokiePolkie

More from Reign of Troy

A: USC’s 2018-19 squad sure will look very different from the one Trojan fans have been used to seeing over the past four years. Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart will graduate, Chimezie Metu appears headed for the NBA while Bennie Boatwright could also take his leave. That’s the Trojans four leading scorers gone.

Under other circumstances, that would mean a drop off a cliff, but Andy Enfield and company have done well to stock the cupboard with talent. The likes of Jonah Mathews, Nick Rakocevic, Jordan Usher, Shaqquan Aaron and Derryck Thornton should keep the Trojans competitive. Plus, rarely-used freshmen Charles O’Bannon Jr. and Victor Uyaelunmo should join the rotation.

On top of that, the Trojans have an exceptional recruiting class coming in, including national prospects like No. 35 Kevin Porter, No. 37 Elijah Weaver and No. 79 J’Raan Brooks.

TRENDING: Five Redshirt Freshmen Who Could Have an Impact in 2018

Can USC compete to get back to the NCAA Tournament next year? They should have that goal with that roster.