USC football 2019 preview: Who will start at quarterback?

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

The success of USC football’s 2019 season will likely hinge on how well the Trojans select and develop their starting quarterback.

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USC football will begin Fall Camp at the start of August with one major question looming over the rest: Who will be the Trojans starting quarterback?

It’s a question that went unanswered in Spring Camp as JT Daniels, Matt Fink, Jack Sears and Kedon Slovis split reps.

CHECK OUT: Is the quarterback battle really open?

Will Daniels, the incumbent, be able to see off mobile usurpers Fink and Sears?

Who’s back:

Matt Fink (RS-Jr.)Jack Sears (RS-So.)JT Daniels (So.)

Who’s new:

Kedon Slovis (Fr.)

Best-case scenarios for the QBs

The best-case scenario for the Trojans at quarterback comes down to your perspective.

On the one hand, it is probably in USC’s best interest for JT Daniels to win back the starting job with an excellent Fall Camp showing.

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Daniels, like his teammates, spent Spring Camp learning the new offense, but didn’t exactly excel at it right away. If he comes into Fall Camp showing more comfort, particularly in terms of his urgency to move the team fast and get the ball out of his hand quickly, he could lock up the starting job without much fuss.

Doing so would give USC a platform on which to build their new offense going into a daunting stretch to start the season. Weaving his experience playing tough opposition in 2018 along with coaching from new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell, could help Daniels take a much-needed step forward.

On the other hand, a segment of USC’s fanbase would see an alternative best-case. That would involve the mobile options, Jack Sears and Matt Fink, unseating Daniels for the starting job.

Visions of Sam Darnold 2.0 have followed Sears since his promising starting cameo against ASU. His 20-for-28 passing line with 235 yards and two touchdowns certainly felt like the best quarterback performance of the season in cardinal and gold.

SEE ALSO: Graham Harrell gives impressions, notes on USC’s QBs

Sears has been held back in the past two competitions by his inability to keep a steady level in practice. If he were able to settle down, his strong arm and playmaking style as a runner would add another element to USC’s offense.

Fink offers similar prospects, albeit with a lesser arm, higher lows and lower highs. His brief flirtation with the transfer portal after Fall Camp gave some indication about where he stood in the pecking order.

In the end, who leads the Trojan offense will matter much less than how well they manage to drive it.

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

Uncertainty is the watch word

There’s an old saying, “If you have two quarterbacks, then you really have none.”

That’s the worry for the Trojans in 2019.

It’ll start in Fall Camp, when the team reopens the quarterback battle in Fall Camp.

Last year it was a sign of trouble when reps remained split between three quarterbacks even as the season fast approached. Failing to make a decision, trim the competition and give the future starter as many reps as possible felt like a mistake.

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It’s one the Trojans need to learn from by naming their starter as early as possible, cutting uncertainty out of Fall Camp and Mock Game Week proceedings.

Of course, the uncertainty might not end there.

What if one of Daniels, Sears, Fink or even Slovis aren’t able to grab hold of the starting job and keep it through merit?

Say Daniels takes over and struggles like he did as a true freshman, his confidence broken by his experience in 2018. The Trojans would have a serious problem on their hands.

Say Sears unseats Daniels as the starter after a few shaky starts, but his erratic practice performances bleed into his gameplay and USC doesn’t experience a Sam-Darnold-esque resurgence under him.

Say the Trojans turn to Fink next and his limitations as a passer limit USC’s offense.

Say Slovis is thrust into the spotlight at some point and plays like the freshman he is.

Those are realities facing USC in 2019, worst-cases as they may be.

Worst yet, what if the Trojan coaches flat out make the wrong decision at the quarterback spot and then stick to their guns on that even as the team flounders?

Jack Sears can make it interesting

The man to watch in Fall Camp is Sears. Signs continue to point to Daniels holding the cards in the quarterback competition, but Sears has the best chance to make it interesting.

But he’ll have to do so early.

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USC will have just over two weeks of camp before shifting to Mock Game Week practices ahead of their August 31 date with Fresno State.

The clock is ticking and there will be no room for error for Sears or Fink.