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Stanford – USC becomes battle of the backups

Heading into the season, the early-season matchup between Stanford’s KJ Costello and USC’s JT Daniels was going to be one of the highlights of the year in terms of quarterback duels. But now, with No. 23 Stanford heading to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, they’ll be doing so with backup quarterback Davis Mills, to face off against USC backup quarterback Kedon Slovis.

Daniels suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in USC’s season-opening win against Fresno State, while Costello will be held out after suffering a concussion in last week’s win against Northwestern.

While two of the marquee names in this matchup will be on the sideline, the intrigue should ramp up, as both quarterbacks bring limited experience but plenty of potential.

Mills was the nation’s No. 1 pro-style passer in the 2017 class and committed to Stanford out of Norcross, Georgia. He was called upon to finish the game against Northwestern, where he went 7-for-14 for 81 yards. He also ran five times for -2 yards and lost two fumbles. Before last week, his stat totals at Stanford consisted of two incomplete passes.

Slovis was the nation’s No. 26 pro-style passer in the 2019 class and committed to USC over very few national offers. The true freshman was named the Trojans’ No. 2 quarterback in the initial depth chart release at the position following fall camp, and was called upon almost immediately, as Daniels went down just before halftime in the season’s first game.

Slovis went 6-for-8 for 57 yards and an interception against Fresno State in the second half.

This development surely tips things toward becoming a defensive battle on Saturday night, and attention shifts to the effectiveness of both running games.

Notes from Helton media availability

  • In Helton’s initial statement, he said, “I think the team couldn’t have practiced any better than they did this week.”
  • Helton didn’t know at the time that Costello would miss the game, but he did address the idea that it could be one of two guys.

“No matter who the quarterback is for the other team, no matter who the quarterback is for us, it’s about executing. It’s about doing the things that we did last game and improving on them — getting that much better as a team. That’s the focus of this team the entire year.”

  • Helton said he thought the team played well up front against Fresno State, citing 190 yards rushing. He wants the offensive line to continue that consistency.

“This game against Stanford has always been one where whoever controls the front, usually wins the game.”

  • Offensive guard Andrew Vorhees practice yesterday and today and Helton expects him to be available against Stanford.
  • Helton said he expects more rotation at the wide receiver position against Stanford and moving forward throughout the season.
  • Jalen McKenzie and Drew Richmond will start as the right guard and right tackle against Stanford.
  • If the Trojans are forced to go to a No. 3 quarterback, it would be Brandon Perdue coming in after Matt Fink, who moves up to No. 2 with Daniels out.


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Erik McKinney

Erik McKinney began writing for WeAreSC in 2004, during his junior year at USC, covering the Trojans football team and recruiting. He then moved on to ESPN.com in 2011, where he served as the West Region recruiting reporter and then the Pac-12 recruiting reporter. He took over as publisher of WeAreSC in January, 2019.


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