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USC’s Quarterback Problem Is A Reflection of the Bigger Problem

USC has a football season from hell. At 5-7 the football team under-performed for the somewhat slightly spoiled fan base. Okay very spoiled. A fan base that expects to be part of the national conversation and relevance. A relevance that has been achieved twice since 2008.

In 2012, after a great year prior and star quarterback Matt Barkley, the Trojans started the season ranked as the number one team in the nation. They, of course, shit the bed and finished the season 7-6. The next year the coach Lane Kiffin was fired on the tarmac of the LAX airport. And in 2016, the Trojans led by Freshman Sam Darnold has a comeback season leading to an amazing Rose Bowl game and victory over Penn State, 52-49, with the Trojans scoring 17 points to Penn State’s 0 in the 4th. It was the greatest game in a long time, maybe after the triple overtime Stanford loss at the Coliseum with the shootout between Matt Barkley and Andrew Luck.

Oh yeah, and in 2010, major sanctions were levelled against the program for improperly giving star running back Reggie Bush benefits and money.

So three times if you count being disgraced nationally.

This isn’t a breakdown of how to rebuild the crippled and inconsistent program. It’s not even to examine whether they can regain confidence and dominance in the Pac-12, a conference that each year seems to be inching closer toward league wide parity and further from the national spotlight because of it.

It’s more to discuss how one move this season shows exactly the amount of turmoil the Trojans are in this season and this last decade.

This year the school made waves by signing JT Daniels, a high school senior who graduated early, to be their quarterback after the departure of their star Savior Sam Darnold.

Now JT Daniels was an extremely accomplished prospect, at his high school Marte Dei. He lead his team to the high school national championship as well as being the Gatorade Player of the Year. Even after this season you would be dumb to assume that he is not talented. He has a cannon of an arm. He can connect downfield and break the game open in one play.

But why did the Trojans need him so bad now?

Reclassifying is becoming more and more common in College Basketball with high school stars looking to join the league and get paid as young as possible, names like Andre Drummond and Andrew Wiggins took advantage of it to get to the league as much as possible.

Like most things, reclassifying has varying degrees of success in the sport, for every success there are plenty of people who took the bet on themselves only to come up short.

Reclassifying in football is a bit more unheard of. For one thing, the sport is much more physical then basketball. You want the strongest prospect you can get, so another year in high school just makes sense. Secondly, to be a QB is, as we all know, extremely complicated. To learn not only the plays or system, which Daniels did during his Junior year at Mater Dei by driving up to the school, but also the nuances and the speed of the game is a big leap.

To make that leap you have to be on yourself, but also, the school has to bet on you.

“He should be in high school still and not on the road facing Stanford.”

That was offensive coordinator Tee Martin’s response to a 17-3 loss to rival Stanford in the third game of the season. In fact, the team lost to all three rivals, Notre Dame, UCLA, and Stanford, the first time to do so since that very disappointing season in 2012.

It is an odd stance for Martin and the coaching staff to have taken. To be fair Martin has since been fired during a shakeup in the offseason, but if your mentality is that this quarterback shouldn’t be here, then why was he there?

USC empowered JT Daniels to work on his game and study and come to SC to live out his dream a year early. They went above and beyond to make him succeed, but in doing so did they think that they would?

That’s the frustrating piece of this season, is that Daniels came out as a winner. Who could argue with it? I mean after all he competed at the highest level when he should have been a Senior in high school. You can’t deny that. But if USC, who has a perfectly competent and capable back up in Jack Sears as demonstrated in the ASU game when Daniels was hurt. And the irony is that Sears is 20 years old. A red shirted Freshman.

I understand that talent matters in any sports, but why did USC feel as though they had to make these accommodations to get JT Daniels?

What they could have done is following:

  • Started Jack Sears this year
  • Signed Daniels next
  • Red Shirted him for another season of Sears Then started Daniels

That is a plan to build a future. That is a way to see a return on investments. It makes sense and is generally what most programs do across the country.

What’s troubling is if they redshirted Sears and thought that he was not better than a junior in high school than isn’t that more of a condemnation on the coaching staff and quarterback coaches? Who is developing these players? Why is it that the redshirting process wouldn’t work? And why couldn’t they see the talent that Sears clearly had?

Instead they lose a season of Daniels and Sears, and now they have three more years of this. And they have set a bad precedent with other prospects who may want to be a Trojan earlier.

And that is ultimately what rubs me the wrong way. They didn’t take a chance on the kid. They mortgaged their future and the development of other players on him.

This can’t miss talent took the team to new lows at 5-7. And maybe it’s unfair to pin it all on him. But then we need to pin it on a staff that looked at talent over traditional ways of thinking like development, conditioning, and coaching.

By gambling on talent over everything else it shows me that you aren’t confident with much else. And that is the scariest part as USC fan.

It’s a sinking ship and we have real leadership in place to save it.

But thank god our QB achieved his dream of playing at USC. Where would we be if he had to wait a year like every other program forced their players to do?

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