Since unveiling the depth chart at the end of fall camp, Clay Helton and Graham Harrell have been unwavering in their decision to name true freshman Kedon Slovis the No. 2 quarterback. They said repeatedly that if JT Daniels were to go down or be pulled from the game, Slovis, and not returning veterans Matt Fink and Jack Sears, would be the guy to go in.
On Saturday night, they stuck to their word, sending Slovis in to start the second half when Daniels went down with a torn ACL and meniscus. And that will be the case Saturday as well, as the USC Trojans will go full steam ahead with Slovis behind center.
“Kedon’s been good since he’s been here and I’m excited to watch him play,” offensive coordinator Graham Harrell said after practice on Tuesday. “We’ve had a ton of confidence in Kedon since he’s been here. So, again, I’m excited to watch him play.”
Helton was pleased with Slovis’ performance in the second half and looks forward to what he’ll do this weekend. While USC ran the ball more with Slovis in the game than it did in the first half with Daniels throwing the ball 34 times, Helton chalked that up to protecting a lead with a true freshman at quarterback. But he said that against Stanford, the playbook would look the same for Slovis as it would have for Daniels.
“Wide open,” Helton said of what the playbook will look like Saturday. “Can’t wait. Wide open.”
Harrell said the gameplan would change based on the opponent, but not based on personnel, echoing Helton’s sentiment that the Trojans will call the same sort of plays with Slovis that they would with Daniels.
Helton also said he won’t be looking to make a move to the bench early on, as Slovis has earned the No. 2 position.
“Kedon’s going out there to lead our football team and I don’t want him looking over his shoulder,” Helton said. “He won the No. 2 position. We had a hurt quarterback. He’s going to walk out there and be the No. 1 quarterback and be backed up by Matt Fink. The reason you ever get pulled as a quarterback is one, you get hurt, or there’s a lack of production.”
Heading into Saturday’s game, it sounded as though the Trojans would roll through their talented roster of receivers, with backups such as Devon Williams and true freshmen John Jackson III, Drake London, and Munir McClain getting extensive reps.
That didn’t happen against Fresno State, as running back Markese Stepp also wasn’t a factor. Harrell said it came down to the fact that the starters have been practicing at such a fast pace, that they were fit enough to stay in the game.
“We were letting them kind of police themselves, because at practice that’s kind of what we do, and they felt fresh,” Harrell said. “So, we have to do a better job as a staff of trying to make sure — if you’re playing 85 plays a game, it’s going to be hard to make it through the season — so, we have to do a good job of making sure that we’re realizing how much they’re playing and getting guys in there, getting fresh legs in there at times.”
Harrell again mentioned that this is a special group of receivers.
“You think, surely they can’t run anymore and they just keep running,” Harrell said.
It was a full pads practice today.
None of the previously injured players fully returned to practice, as cornerback Max Williams, tight end Ethan Rae, defensive lineman Jacob Lichtenstein, outside linebacker Malik McClain, and inside linebacker Eli’jah Winston all remained out.
JT Daniels attended practice on a mobility scooter.
Right guard Andrew Vorhees sat out practice today. Helton said he has a foot injury and will be able to provide an update later in the week.
Wide receiver Kyle Ford dressed in full pads and is now cleared to go through individual drills. Ford is a dynamic wide receiver and would likely have been a true freshman contributor this year if he had been healthy enough to participate in fall camp after recovering from an ACL injury. As it is, it will be interesting to monitor his progress to see if he’s a guy who could potentially see time in the final four games of the year to take advantage of the redshirt rule put in place last season.