9 days to USC football: Who is backup quarterback Kedon Slovis?

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

Reign of Troy’s countdown to the USC football season is now in single-digits. So who is Kedon Slovis and why is the No. 9 suddenly the most intriguing player on the Trojan roster?

BEST OF USC. Top 10 Trojan QBs

USC football is just nine days away!

The single-digits have arrived, but the waiting remains. So we at Reign of Troy are continuing to count down the days by looking at the players who have worn and are wearing each Trojan jersey number.

CHECK OUT: Projecting USC’s 2019 starting lineup

Today that’s No. 9:

Who wore it best?

The moment that enshrined Marqise Lee as the greatest to ever wear the cardinal and gold No. 9 jersey wasn’t in victory, but in defeat.

On October 27, 2012, Lee’s Herculean effort against Arizona was the stuff legends are made of. The Wildcats got the upset. Lee got the records.

He had 12 catches for 255 yards at half time. He added nearly another games-worth of production in the second half to total 16 receptions for 345 yards and two touchdowns. The catch total was one shy of Robert Woods’ single-game record. The yardage set a new USC receiving record.

Just for kicks, he returned three for 123 yards, including a 72-yarder. His all-purpose total came to 469, which is second all-time at USC.

“I’ve only seen two skilled guys like this ever, No. 5 and No. 9,” head coach Lane Kiffin said, comparing Lee to Reggie Bush, as quoted by Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t know how you can do more than he does. He’s in [the locker room] like he lost the Super Bowl.”

Lee took the loss as hard, if not harder, than any diehard USC fan would.

When Matt Barkley tossed up a Hail Mary in the final seconds, Lee came agonizingly close to pulling off a miracle. But the ball fell incomplete.

“He crumpled to the ground and wept,” Bill Plashke of the Los Angeles Times described the moment in 2012. “He continued weeping as he walked off the field. He staggered into the locker room and punched a mirror, cutting his arm.”

It was that relatable burst of emotion and competitive spirit which endeared Lee to Trojan fans, along with his winning smile which shined despite a truly trying childhood, during which gang violence put one brother in a grave and another in prison, during which he was shuffled around the foster system, during which he struggled with anger management and had every reason to let it consume him.

Instead, Lee went on to establish or take a share of USC records like most career receiving yards, most single-season receiving yards, most single-season receptions, most receptions by a freshman, most kickoff returns and yards in a game, most 200-yard receiving games, most games with at least 10 receptions in a career and in a single-season, most games with at least eight receptions, most seasons with 1,000 receiving yards, most receiving yards in two consecutive seasons, most receiving yards in freshman and sophomore seasons and even more than that.

USC fans were especially luck to have Lee’s successor take the form of JuJu Smith-Schuster, an equally likable and talented receiver.

Who wears it now?

The story of the No. 9 in 2019 looked quite a bit different just a few months ago.

To start out with, defensive back Greg Johnson looked set to give up his Trojan jersey when he entered the transfer portal before the start of Spring Camp. He ultimately decided to return after just a few days and now is primed to give USC an option in the rotation at either nickelback or cornerback.

At quarterback, Kedon Slovis joined the Trojans as an early enrollee in the spring semester and promptly took up the No. 9, which was a surprise in and of itself. Why give a coveted single-digit number to an unheralded QB prospect?

Slovis ranked 705th in the 247Sports composite coming out of high school. To put that into perspective, Matt Fink was also a three-star player, but he ranked 456th nationally in 2016. Jack Sears ranked 105th in 2017. JT Daniels was 16th in 2018.

Yet Slovis showed perhaps he warranted that No. 9 soon enough, jumping straight into the quarterback competition and holding his own against the three more veteran players.

By the end of Fall Camp, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder out of Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale was declared the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart.

RELATED: Kedon Slovis may still challenge JT Daniels in 2019

That alone would be impressive enough, but offensive coordinator Graham Harrell made it clear after the announcement that Slovis wasn’t far behind the more consistent Daniels.

At the very least, Slovis has established himself as a future contender for a starting job at USC. That opportunity could come at any time too.

Stats to know: 9

  • End Garrett Arbelbide was USC’s ninth ever All-American in 1930.
  • USC won nine consecutive bowl game appearances, including the 1924 Christmas Festival and the 1923, 1930, 1932, 1933, 1939, 1940, 1944 and 1945 Rose Bowls, which is second only to Florida State’s record of 11.
  • Halfback Frank Gifford scored nine rushing touchdowns in his Trojan career from 1949 to 1951.
  • Tailback Clarence Davis had nine 100-yard rushing games in his All-American career, spanning 1969 and 1970. He scored nine rushing touchdowns in each of those seasons.
  • All-American do-everything defender Charles Phillips had nine deflections in both the 1973 and 1974 seasons.
  • USC had nine alumni playing in the 1977 Super Bowl. Clarence Davis, Willie Hall, Manfred Moore, Charles Phillips, Mike Rae, Alonzo Thomas and John Vella played for victorious Oakland. Steve Riley and Ron Yary played for Minnesota.
  • Quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart each scored nine career rushing touchdowns. The former ran in at least one in every year from 1998 through 2002.
  • In the 2004 Rose Bowl, USC recorded a season-high nine sacks, which were the most by the Trojans since 1992, in a 28-14 victory over Michigan.
  • Wide receiver Steve Smith had nine career 100-yard receiving games from 2003 to 2006. He finished his senior campaign with a career-best nine touchdown catches.
  • USC came into the 2017 Rose Bowl ranked No. 9 in the country. In besting Penn State, they ended the Nittany Lions’ nine-game winning streak and extended their own to nine games.
  • Cornerback Iman Marshall twice led the Trojans with nine deflections, as a freshman in 105 and a senior in 2018.

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