Pac-12 Media Day, the symbolic kickoff to the college football season, saw the USC football team chatting up the quarterbacks, sweet tooths and a new way leading.
Wednesday’s 2018 installment of Pac-12 Media Day at Hollywood & Highland’s Ray Dolby Ballroom in Los Angeles saw the return of a grueling one-day format for the first time in seven years.
On a day highlighted by the return of Chip Kelly and the traveling Herm Edwards show, it served as one of the most low-key preseason gatherings in recent memory. The USC football team was represented by grizzled soft-spoken senior linebackers Cameron Smith and Porter Gustin, along with head coach Clay Helton.
The uber-talented Trojans, fresh off back-to-back 10-win seasons and picked to win the Pac-12 South as they are seemingly every year, looked and sounded like they’ve been here before.
But that didn’t mean there weren’t things to learn along the way. Let’s walk through the five biggest eyebrow-raisers…
Insight on the QB battle
The Trojans are about to endue yet another closely watched quarterback battle, this time featuring three friendly combatants: redshirt sophomore Matt Fink, redshirt freshman Jack Sears and high-school-senior-turned-true-freshman J.T. Daniels.
Despite the trio varying in youth, don’t think for a second that seniority will be a contributing factor to the decision.
“The guy playing the best is going to go out there in this situation,” Helton said. “It does not matter your age. It’s the guy that’s going to compete and play the best and move our football team.”
That’s a good sign for Daniels.
Not since 2009 has a Trojan started a true freshman quarterback, when Matt Barkley replaced New York Jet draftee and Penn State conqueror/Rose Bowl record-setter, Mark Sanchez. Now, it’s another Mater Dei Monarch —Daniels— who will try to repeat the feat to follow the eerily titled Sam Darnold.
How’s USC’s staff going to get to their decision when three different guys have to split first-team reps in fall camp? Easy. Split it up.
The Trojans will often two-spot the quarterback battle, using a mirrored practice format where two quarterbacks will run the same exact plays with different players on opposite sides of the field at the same time, during both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. They’ll also rely on full-team passing drills to use defensive pass rushers like Porter Gustin as a simulator for live action.
“It will be planned out each and every day and scripted, based on who’s in in that situation [to] try to give an even play count,” Helton said.