Why USC football needs to name JT Daniels the starter already

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

The USC football season starts in less than two weeks and they still don’t have a starting quarterback, even though JT Daniels is the obvious choice.

Grading the QB Battle. REPORT CARD

After USC football’s scrimmage this past Saturday, the court of public opinion has made its decision in the case of the Trojans starting quarterback and has ruled in favor of JT Daniels. Even before that the quarterback competition between Matt Fink, Jack Sears and Daniels had an obvious conclusion, and the scrimmage silenced anyone’s doubts.

During the scrimmage, Daniels won the day, going 10-of-12 with four touchdowns. Sears held his own, going 7-of-11 with two touchdowns, but struggled in the first two series and has been having issues securing snaps. Matt Fink wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t good, going  9-of-12 and getting sacked four times. Fink’s play in fall camp would have won him a job against Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, but the competition is a little stronger in the post-sanctions era.

Unfortunately, the decision doesn’t seem like it will be made until the week before their season opener against the UNLV Rebels. If the majority of fans think Daniels is the obvious choice, why hasn’t Clay Helton made it official? Is there something he is seeing that the Trojan faithful aren’t?

CHECK OUT: Five things we learned so far from Fall Camp

Let’s breakdown some statistics and measurements of each potential candidate, their positives and negatives, and potential season projections with each leading the offense.

Tale Of The Tape

Who has the best measurables?

Height & Weight

Matt Fink: 6-foot-3, 190 lbs

Jack Sears: 6-foot-3, 200 lbs

JT Daniels: 6-foot-3, 210 lbs

Winner: Their dating profiles

Date Of Birth

Matt Fink: December 13, 1997 (age 20 years)

Jack Sears: April 17, 1998 (age 20 years)

JT Daniels: February 2, 2000 (age 18 years)

Winner: Matt Fink. He will be able to get into the 9-0 before bowl season.


Matt Fink: Communications

Jack Sears: Business Administration

JT Daniels: Underclared

Winner: Jack Sears. Business Administration has the highest median salary out of college, unless Daniels changes his major to NFL Quarterback.

High School Accolades

Matt Fink: 2015 Prep Star All-American, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, Cal-Hi Sports All-State Medium Schools first team, All-CIF Central Division, San Gabriel Valley Tribune All-Area first team and All-Palomares League Player of the Year

Jack Sears: 2016 Prep Star All-American Dream Team, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, Orange County Register Fab 15 second team, Cal-Hi Sports All-State first team, USA Today All-California second team, All-CIF Division 2 Offensive Player of the Year, Orange County Register All-Orange County first team and All-South Coast League Offensive Player of the Year

JT Daniels: 2017 Gatorade National Player of the Year, Max Preps National Player of the Year, National High School Coaches Association Player of the Year, USA Today All-USA first team, PrepStar Dream Team, Orange County Register Fab 15 first team, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, Gatorade California Player of the Year, USA Today All-California Player of the Year, Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year, Cal-Hi Sports All-State first team, Max Preps Junior All-American first team, All-CIF Division 1 Offensive Player of the Year, Los Angeles Times All-Area Player of the Year and Orange County Register All-Orange County Offensive Player of the Year

Winner: The one that got an invite to the ESPYs.

Pros & Cons

Let’s examine some of the pros and cons of each candidate:

Matt Fink


Pro: Only quarterback on the roster with a highlight in cardinal and gold.

Con: Half of the fans still in the Coliseum at this point could have made this play against Oregon State.

Pro: Wears the same number as Johnny Unitas.

Con: There’s a reason quarterbacks haven’t worn that number for over 50 years.

Pro: Only choice of the three to ever take a college snap.

Con: That was the same logic that got Max Browne named starter in 2016.

Pro: The safest choice for USC.

Con: Playing it safe has never worked out for Clay Helton.

Pro: Seems like a nice kid.

Con: Resorting to assumptions on his personality because there aren’t enough positives about him on the field.

Jack Sears

Pro: Went to the same high school as Sam Darnold.

Con: Went to the same high school as Ryan Sheckler.

Pro: Solid quarterback name.

Con: So was Aaron Corp.

Pro: Fixed his throwing motion ahead of Fall Camp.

Con: Throwing motions don’t matter in college (see: Tebow, Tim).

Pro: A full season of department store puns.

Con: The retail chain that shares his name is basically bankrupt.

JT Daniels

Pro: ESPYs appearance shows he can already handle the bright lights of Los Angeles.

Con: A lot of cameras and media attention has never been good for a USC quarterback.

Pro: When USC doesn’t name the best quarterback on the roster as their Week 1 starter, they lose in Texas by 46 points.

Pro: When USC doesn’t name the best quarterback Week 1 starter, they win the Rose Bowl.

Pro: Whenever he does something good, fans can say “He’s only 18!”

Con: Whenever he does something bad, fans can say, “He’s only 18.”

Pro: Will be USC version of Josh Rosen.

Con: USC coaches and fans alike may not be able to handle that potential headache.

Pro: Skipped his final year of high school to enroll early at USC.

Con: Might still have senioritis.

Pro: Has more than twice as many Twitter followers as Matt Fink and Jack Sears combined.

Con: May get too distracted watching Twitch streams and Snapchatting to study the playbook.

Pro: Helped recruit freshman wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Con: His help will probably end up being an NCAA violation somehow.

Here are my best guesstimates of the upcoming season if each player was named starting quarterback:

Matt Fink

After Fink is named starter, USC struggles to pull away in their opener against UNLV until the fourth quarter, when the Trojans defense returns an interception for a touchdown. Because of this, there isn’t any garbage time for either Daniels or Sears to show their potential.

USC proceeds to lose the next week against Stanford, 17-10. The offense fails to convert a single third down all game. Clay Helton gives Fink one more chance, and he proceeds to throw three interceptions in the first half against Texas. He’s pulled at halftime for Daniels, but unfortunately his second half heroics aren’t enough and the Trojans lose 41-38.

MORE: Ranking USC’s 2018 schedule by threat level

Daniels is named starter, but his confidence is diminished after he failed to lead a comeback against the Longhorns. USC finishes the season 7-5, and the Trojans get selected to the Sun Bowl.

After USC loses in the bowl game, Clay Helton resigns as head coach. Lynn Swann spends a week trying to lure someone from the NFL to USC before announcing Tee Martin as the next head coach of the Trojans.

Jack Sears

After Sears is named starter, he throws for four touchdowns as the USC romps UNLV. Promptly, ESPN releases an article calling him “the next Sam Darnold.” The article gets to his head and the overconfidence leads to a late game interception in triple coverage that seals the victory for Stanford. This is the beginning of the end of the Jack Sears era as this leads to a disastrous outing against Texas.

Daniels is named starter against Washington State. Because of the short week, the Trojans lose despite Daniels performance. They proceed to win every other game that season and win the Rose Bowl.

Clay Helton, realizing he has no skill for naming starting quarterbacks, decides to go to a school where there isn’t enough talent at that position to even warrant a competition: LSU.

JT Daniels

After Daniels is named starting quarterback, USC proceeds to win every regular season game, the college playoff and national championship. For the next three years.

Not only that, but immediately after being named starter, all the fires in California are put out. Helton’s hair starts to grow back. Every USC fan gets a raise. All the world’s problems get solved.

The ultimate sacrifice for all of this is Daniels is being drafted 1st overall…by the Cleveland Browns.

If you look at this completely unbiased analysis of each candidate, the choice is obviously JT Daniels. How are you going to have a kid who got invited to the ESPYs holding a clipboard to start the season? There has to be some sort of rule that forbids that from happening.

Hell, even ignoring everything above and just paying attention to the play on the practice field this fall, the choice is still obviously Daniels. So what’s taking Helton so long?

More from Reign of Troy

Maybe this is all part of a greater plan to quell the unreasonable season expectations that Trojans fans will have once Daniels is named starter. With Fink or Sears running the Trojans offense, most USC fans would be content with eight or nine wins. Daniels, however, will have the Trojan faithful thinking college playoff or national championship.

This theory has some merit to it, as it would explain why Darnold was named starter in Week 4 after the Trojans started 1-2 in 2016. Set the expectations low and then exceed them. It’s easier to jump over the bar when it starts out so low.

But, after three years as head coach at USC, Helton should realize this plan isn’t realistic anymore. There’s nothing that will ever change this fan base’s irrationality when it comes to their football team. Especially after breaking their Pac-12 title drought last year.

The actual reality, sadly, is that Helton is a diligent coach and there is nothing to gain from naming a starter this early. It would please the fans, but so was the idea of naming Ed Orgeron head coach to replace Lane Kiffin. There won’t be outrage amongst the fans whether the decision is made today, tomorrow, or right before the UNLV game.

That is, as long as JT Daniels is named starter.

FALL CAMP NOTES: Matt Fink shines on Day 11

Note: As this article was being written, Matt Fink had his best day of camp. Too little, too late, if you ask me (or any USC fan that pays attention to Fall Camp). If Fink wants a legitimate chance at starting for USC, he’ll need to change his name.  Every time I see it, I’m reminded of the nerdy professor from The Simpsons.