18 days to USC football: Crossroads for JT Daniels and the Trojans

RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy)
RoT Countdown / Photo by Alicia de Artola (Reign of Troy) /

Reign of Troy continues the countdown to USC football’s 2019 season with a look at the No. 18 jersey, including JT Daniels and R. Jay Soward.

Top 10 Trojan QBs. BEST OF USC

USC football is now JT Daniels days away from returning. That’s 18, for the record.

The season opener against Fresno State is fast approaching and Reign of Troy will see you through the rest of the wait by taking a look at every Trojan jersey number.

CHECK OUT: Evaluating each QB after the first scrimmage

The No. 18 is up next:

Who wore it best?

There isn’t much to say about the No. 18 before 1996, when R. Jay Soward put the jersey on and wasted no time establishing himself as arguably the greatest to ever wear it.

“At USC, R. Jay Soward is the preferred new spelling for E-X-P-L-O-S-I-V-E,” wrote Earl Gustkey of the Los Angeles Times in November of 1996, after Soward had touched the ball exactly 15 times.

THROWBACK: USC and UCLA’s wackiest ever game

The first of those touches was a 97-yard touchdown in garbage time during the second game of the season, a score which still holds the USC record for longest passing play of all-time.

Another touch was a 96-yard kickoff return during the Trojans heartbreaking overtime loss to No. 4 Arizona State.

The next week, Soward took the second half kickoff 78 yards to tie the game.

MORE: Selecting USC’s preseason All-Foe team

His crowing moment came against UCLA in USC’s penultimate game of the 1996 regular season. Soward caught six passes for 260 yards on that day, setting an NCAA freshman receiving record, along with the Trojans own. His yardage remains a USC record.

Explosiveness, particularly in dates with UCLA, remained a hallmark of Soward’s career. He had eight catches for 181 yards in a performance which earned him a second-straight Marv Goux Award as the player of the game against the Bruins. He added seven catches for 124 yards in 1998.

Unfortunately for the Trojans, his exceptional playmaking abilities didn’t result in wins over UCLA in 1996, 1997 or 1998. Nor were his pass catching and special teams contributions enough to spare USC from a 26-22 record during his career.

Soward still ranks fourth on USC’s all-time kick return list and checks in at 13th on the pass catching chart.

SEE ALSO: Ranking USC’s 15 best ever wide receivers

After Soward, the Trojans got all-conference performances out of kicker David Buehler and wide receiver Damien Williams.

Picking up on Sowards’ freshman phenom status, Dion Bailey was the 2011 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in the number.

And of course, a certain true freshman quarterback wore it in 2018…

Who wears it now?

JT Daniels is the biggest question mark on USC’s roster going into 2019.

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He won the starting quarterback job in 2018 on the strength of an impressive Fall Camp performance, but his first season at the helm was ultimately a disappointment. He completed 59.5 percent of his passes while throwing 14 touchdown to 10 interceptions while USC stumbled to a 5-7 record.

On the one hand, Daniels’ numbers resembled those of fellow true freshman Trojan starter Matt Barkley, and his career turned out quite well in the end. He may just need the time and support to live up to his talent.

On the other hand, Daniels’ struggles, often opting for potshots down the field and succumbing to pressure, were a serious concern.

The new Air Raid offense is aimed at making life easier for the quarterback, but Daniels first has to win his job back. He’s been in competition with Matt Fink, Jack Sears and Kedon Slovis this offseason, holding serve more than pulling away in the battle. Still, he remains the favorite to be named the starter when all is said and done.

Not to be forgotten, nickelback Raymond Scott is also wearing No. 18 for the Trojans in 2019. He was converted to defensive back after spending his redshirt year at linebacker. However, he doesn’t seem to be in contention to play just yet.

Stats to know: 18

  • Tackle Ernie Smith was USC’s 18th All-American ever in 1932.
  • All-American quarterback Grenville “Grenny” Lansdell scored 18 rushing touchdowns from 1937 to 1939.
  • All-American tailback Clarence Davis scored 18 touchdowns in two seasons with USc from 1969 to 1970.
  • Richard “Batman” Wood made his debut in 1972 with 18 tackles in the Trojans season opener.
  • The 1975 national title was decided for USC in the 1975 Rose Bowl, when Pat Haden lobbed a late touchdown to John McKay and completed a two-point conversion to Shelton Diggs to lift the Trojans over Ohio State 18-17.
  • Defensive back Danny Reece ranks second on USC’s all-time interception list with 18.
  • All-American quarterback Paul McDonald tossed 18 touchdowns in 1979 while leading the Trojans. Fellow All-American Rodney Peete did the same as a senior in 1988.
  • Linebacker Jack Del Rio led USC with 18 tackles for loss in 1982.
  • USC beat Arizona in 1987 thanks to an 18-yard kick from Quin Rodriguez with just over a minute to play.
  • In 1989, Todd Marinovich and the Trojans engineered an 18-play, 91-yard drive to best Washington State 18-17 on a two-yard touchdown to Ricky Ervins with four seconds left.
  • All-American linebacker Lofa Tatupu had 18 career deflections in two seasons from 2003 to 2004. Darnell Bing matched that in three years from 2003 to 2005.
  • USC’s 2007 Rose Bowl victory over Michigan, 32-18, featured six sacks by the Trojans against a Wolverine offensive line which had conceded just 18 all season.
  • The Trojans own two of the longest streaks of consecutive No. 1 appearances in the AP Poll. The first, and now third-ranked, was from September 12, 1972 to September 25, 1973, spanning 18 weeks. Miami ranks second with 21 in a row while USC’s 2003 through 2005 run of 33 weeks at the top ranks first.
  • In three years as USC’s head coach, Paul Hackett suffered 18 losses. Official records for Pete Carroll, removing one vacated loss, including a record of 83-18 in the course of nine seasons.

Next. 19 Days to Kickoff