Does freshman quarterback JT Daniels still deserve his starting spot? Or should USC football turn to the mobile quarterback Jack Sears?
After losing to Cal on Saturday, the Trojans are now a dismal 5-5 and hopes of a Pac-12 Championship appearance have officially been shattered. In the loss, the offense struggled throughout the entirety of the game, scoring zero points in three out of the four quarters. As the leader and quarterback of the offense, this means that JT Daniels received much of the attention around the offense’s shortcomings.
On paper, Daniels did not have such a terrible game, throwing for two touchdowns with an almost 62 percent completion rate. However, he was sacked four times for a net loss of 29 yards and did not make an impact in the second half.
Aside from the Cal game, Daniels has compiled a string of unimpressive performances throughout the season, including against Stanford and Texas.
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More recently, Daniels played a minimal role against a weak Oregon State team, throwing for less than 200 yards and a single touchdown.
And then against Utah, Daniels had his worst performance of the season, going 6-for-16 for less than 100 yards and two interceptions while also receiving a concussion in the third quarter.
All of his struggles and average performances leads you to wonder, does he really deserve the starting role? Should Jack Sears start over him?
Sears made a pretty strong case as to why he should after his performance against Arizona State. In his only game of the season thus far, Sears had a highly efficient and impressive game.
He completed 20-of-28 passes for two touchdowns and added 36 yards on the ground, showcasing his speed and running abilities. In doing so, Sears lead the offense to 14-unanswered points in the third quarter, overcoming a 24-7 halftime deficit. Although the Trojans did end up losing 38-35, Sears without a doubt had a great performance.
A combination of Daniels’s inconsistent, frustrating play and the energizing performance of Sears raises many questions. However, I think Daniels should still start for USC.
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Sears picked apart a defense that was average at best. Currently ranked 57th in total defense and sitting in the middle of the pack, Arizona State was by no means a defensive stopper.
Meanwhile, Daniels was able to put together a strong performance against the 20th-ranked Washington State defense with a three touchdown effort and a win. Although Daniels has struggled throughout the season, he has only done so against top-tier Pac-12 defenses such as Cal and Utah. Even in the Cal game, Daniels had a hot first half with a 75 percent completion rating and two touchdowns in the second quarter.
Daniels is not to blame for the offensive struggles. Rather, the coaching staff is at fault.
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The freshman has shown flashes of potential and best displays his talent on the long ball, scoring six of his 11 touchdowns on passes 30 yards and out. But, he is not given enough chances to make plays down the field each game.
When Daniels has connected with his receivers on the long ball, USC has been successful. Yet, Helton’s questionable offensive playcalling limits Daniels’ role and impact on the game by relying heavily on a struggling offensive line to create a running game. This will not work.
Daniels has all the potential and skills he needs to be a future first rounder, but until coaching changes are made the team will go nowhere.
Yes, Jack Sears had an impressive game against ASU and it’s easy to suggest starting him over Daniels as the team continues to disappoint. For this season, Sears may appear to be the better choice since he is more mobile and can make up for the offensive line’s lack of effectiveness.
But in the long run, Daniels is still the better option.
I expect to see major offseason changes in the coaching staff and if USC can find the right playcaller, I believe Daniels can shine and show his true talent.
USC fans, trust the process and don’t give up on JT Daniels just yet.