USC football roundup: Where does JT Daniels rank nationally?

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

Where do JT Daniels and USC football’s receiving corps rate nationally? The Trojan news roundup zeroes in on position rankings.

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USC football is still in the middle of a quarterback battle to determine the starter for the 2019, but that’s not stopping JT Daniels from being penciled in as the presumptive No. 1 or being ranked accordingly.

On Tuesday, Athlon Sports released their ranking of all 130 college football quarterback starters, with Daniels slotting in at No. 40.

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In May, Athlon rated Daniels as the sixth-best quarterback in the Pac-12, so the national ranking reflects his middle-of-the-road status, just one spot ahead of Colorado’s Steven Montez and two ahead of Washington State’s Gage Gubrud, a transfer from Easter Washington.

Ahead of Daniels are No. 26 Jacob Eason of Washington, No. 17 Khalil Tate of Arizona, No. 15 Tyler Huntley of Utah, No. 14 K.J. Costello of Stanford and No. 5 Justin Herbert of Oregon.

Neither Daniels nor USC can complain too strenuously over that ranking. While it’s worth acknowledging that he was a true freshman in 2018, his quarterback rating was ninth of the 11 quarterbacks with a minimum of 15 pass attempts per game in the Pac-12.

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The opportunity to rise up those rankings will come in 2019. And there is some hope on that score.

Pro Football Focus tweeted a listing of “Big Time Throws” by returning quarterbacks in the Pac-12 and Daniels ranked fourth with 22 to his name. That was just behind Costello, Herbert and Tate.

Ranking the receiving corps

Quarterbacks aren’t the only thing being ranked this week. Bleacher Report took a stab at ranking receiving corps around the country and USC featured quite highly. The Trojans came in at No. 4.

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As David Kenyon put it, “USC has 99 problems, but the receivers ain’t one.”

That’s only partially true. USC’s problems certainly aren’t rooted in the top end of their receiving corps. Between Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Velus Jones Jr., the presumptive starting four for the Trojans is exceptionally strong. Deployed in an Air Raid offense designed to get more production from all of them, they should thrive in 2019.

If there’s a problem it has more to do with depth. Devon Williams is an exciting young prospect, Kyle Ford was one of the top receivers coming out of the class of 2019 and Bru McCoy is a future star. But there aren’t many bodies beyond those players for a system which normally operates with a whole load of them. Plus, Ford is coming off a long-term knee injury and McCoy may not be eligible to play in 2019.

As far as opposing receiving corps, USC will face a couple of good ones. Colorado got an honorable mention while Washington State rates No. 5.

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Double-bye intrigue

Sports Illustrated’s Joan Niesen took a look at the double-bye week phenomenon in college football this year, thanks to a quirk in the calendar.

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USC is one such team who could benefit from two byes, getting their first in Week 6 after a road trip to Washington and ahead of a road trip to Notre Dame. The second one will come at the end of the season following the finale against UCLA. If the Trojans manage to win the Pac-12 South, that could mean an extra week to prepare for the conference championship game. If they falter again, then it’ll be a wasted week off.

Interestingly enough, Niesen looked at the second bye from a different perspective when it comes to USC.

“…by not playing on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Trojans will miss out on one last chance to impress. If USC is actually in the playoff hunt, the week off could offer precious time to prepare for the Pac-12 title game the following weekend, but what if this late bye actually takes USC’s fate out of its own hands as other contenders make a final statement to the selection committee?”

Fully acknowledging the unlikeliness of a scenario where the Trojans are actually in playoff contention, the idea that USC could be harmed in the perception of the selection committee by not playing in the final week before championship weekend seems like even more of a stretch.