JT Daniels named as 2019 USC starting quarterback

John McCoy/Getty Images
John McCoy/Getty Images /

For the second-straight year, true sophomore JT Daniels has been named USC’s starting quarterback by head coach Clay Helton.

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Though not as high-profile or dramatic, the 2019 quarterback battle at USC finished just like last year’s, with JT Daniels emerging as the victor. Head coach Clay Helton announced the decision Tuesday afternoon following the Trojans’ first practice of mock game week.

The sophomore incumbent re-earned the QB1 spot after beating out a trio of challengers. In a surprise move, Helton ranked true freshman Kedon Slovis No. 2, previous backup Matt Fink No. 3 and last year’s spot starter Jack Sears at No. 4.

The open battle was both tight and lackluster. None of the quarterbacks separated themselves or made game-changing statements with their performances.

“To have that four quality of quarterbacks on one team is very rare,” Helton said.

All four led scoring drives during Saturday’s fall showcase at the Coliseum, forcing Helton and new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell to split hairs in a meeting Monday.

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Ultimately, the head coach and coordinator were on the same page. Daniels got his numbered called with an opportunity to put last year behind him.

“It was just a consistency that he had over 30 practices,” Helton said. “He was consistent day in and day out, doing his assignments and making plays and moving the team.”

In 11 games, Daniels put up numbers eerily similar to that of 2009 Matt Barkley, albeit without the wins. The true freshman threw threw for 2,672 passing yards to Barkley’s 2,735. His 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions were a smidgen cleaner than Barkley’s 15-to-14 ratio.

Can he make a big leap in Year 2 like his fellow Mater Dei Monarch? It’ll come down to limiting mistakes and how well he can adapt to the new air raid offense. Fortunately, an experienced Daniels will have a deep arsenal of talented receivers and should be a better fit within a pass-first scheme.

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The journey August 31st against Fresno State, while the rest of the quarterbacks now face different paths.

Slovis though? He might ultimately stand to be the true winner in all of this. His appointment as the team’s No. 2 quarterback is a massive vote of confidence for the youngster who was in the thick of the competition despite low expectations so early into his collegiate career, when against three quarterbacks with experience.

“We went in and said that it wasn’t going to be about age or where you’re from,” Helton said. “It was going to be about who was the most productive. And you know, we were very surprised with Kedon coming out of the spring. Very impressed. We went through this camp, another 15 practices, to see if it wasn’t just this spring and he did it again.”

What exactly? Consistency. Which is a fitting attribute for USC to target, given last year’s wild inconsistency of the offense.

While the freshman will likely still redshirt should Daniels stay healthy, Fink and Sears will also await an opportunity this season, should one arise like it did in 2018. They have two and three years of eligibility remaining.