Thoughts on QB competition
Garry Paskwietz: I’m looking forward to finally seeing the competition play out on the field with JT Daniels taking part rather than hovering behind the huddle as he was doing in spring. Clay Helton talked at media day about making some adjustments in the way they distribute reps early on in camp to make sure that each quarterback (Matt Fink and Jack Sears included) are given a fair shot to make an impression on the coaches, and that’s all any of the quarterbacks can ask for. Let the games begin.
Greg Katz: My thoughts on the QB competition is that it’s not a matter of if but when J.T. Daniels becomes the starter. I am a little more conservative when it comes to J.T. starting the UNLV opener, but I would be shocked if he’s not the starter for or after the Stanford game leading into the Texas game. That being said, I have no doubt that Matt Fink and Jack Sears will give it their best shot during training camp. These two are competitors and will make Daniels earn it. A real question, however, arises is what will Fink or Sears do when Daniels assumes command?
HelixTrojan: It will be very interesting in the first week of camp to see how the QB reps are divided. A key to finding the best QB at starter is to allow Daniels, Fink and Sears to get a look with the first team offense in a variety of situations. As most fans feel Daniels will emerge, allowing him to “earn” that designation will be important for his teammates and fellow competitors to observe.
Angel Viscarra: When the Trojans kick-off their 2018 season during what will likely be a scorching Sep. 1st game against UNLV, there will be a big bright No. 18 jersey under center playing quarterback for them. I’ve got JT Daniels ultimately coming out of fall camp as USC’s starting signal caller. The hype train is too big, too real and I feel that over the course of the next few weeks, JT needs to show just enough flashes-in-the-pan of his playmaking ability to clinch the starting gig. Also, I feel like the Browne-Darnold QB competition is still very fresh in Clay Helton’s mind — he’s learned that upside and youth (both of which belong to JT) are key cogs in the QB decision-making process.
Give an “under-the-radar” player who you think isn’t get much attention but who will play a big role in camp
GP: Ykili Ross has been taking reps in the off-season at two different positions; slot corner and strong safety. He’s listed at safety and will probably see more action there as the Trojans look for someone, or multiple players, to line up next to Marvell Tell, and right now it would either be Ross or Bubba Bolden as the starter. Ajene Harris is the starting slot corner and it could either be Ross or Jonathan Lockett lining up behind him.
GK: An “under-the-radar” player who I think isn’t getting much attention but will play a big role in camp is senior corner Jonathan Lockett, who missed last season with a hip injury. I am not saying he’ll end up starting, but I am saying that Jonathan can be a player who is ready to be a real contributing factor at a real position of question. Given the situation, another candidate for this question would be senior Isaiah Langley, who some consider the frontrunner as a corner starter opposite Iman Marshall.
HT: On offense, RB Vavae Maleapai is a player that I think will impress with his toughness and open field running ability. He has shown flashes in the past season, and will take another step. On defense, OLB Jordan Iosefa will have the important responsibility of stepping into Uchenna Nwosu’s role from last season. In his 4 or 5 games at outside linebacker last season, Iosefa took to the position like a fish in water.
AV: I might be going out on a limb here, but I feel like John Houston is a very under-the-radar guy who could come through with a productive redshirt junior season. Houston certainly had his ups and down last fall, I think we can all agree on that. But physically, he has looked a bit thicker this offseason, and I think that the crop of promising freshman linebackers which USC hauled in this past offseason (Palaie Gaoteote, Solomon Tuliapupu, others) will be just the competition he needs to make a big jump in 2018. While those freshmen studs at linebacker certainly have all the upside in the world, there’s something to be said about Houston being a guy with three seasons of experience under his belt – especially working and learning alongside a guy like Cam Smith all that time.
Most important thing you’re looking to see in camp
GP: I’m going to be paying a lot of attention to the return of some injured guys in Stephen Carr, Daniel Imatorbhebhe and Marlon Tuipulotu. Carr was recently cleared to return to practice and that was great news because I, along with many others, think he has a chance to be something special. We know what Daniel can do as a middle-of-the-field pass catching threat and it would be nice for the new QB to have that kind of weapon available. If we can combine a healthy Marlon with an improving Brandon Pili, along with Jay Tufele for depth, it could give the Trojans a major position of strength at the all-important nose tackle spot.
GK: The most important thing you’re looking to see in camp is actually two-fold. One, I am extremely interested to see how Clay Helton sets the table for the quarterback competition during scrimmages, and I want to see how physical are the practices in terms of trying to get the Trojans’ offensive line to play up to a level of manliness that we have not yet seen on a consistent basis in the recent past.
HT: Well, I think there are two things: 1) the performance of the offensive line from a physical and cohesion standpoint will be measured throughout Fall Camp, and 2) Health . . . there are several key contributors coming back from injury (TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe, CB Jonathan Lockett, and NT Marlon Tuipulotu) who will need to be incorporated back into practice.
AV: Offensive line, offensive line, offensive line. Without a doubt, the position group that I will be keeping the most keen eye on this fall camp will be the offensive line. I would never question Neil Callaway’s pedigree and football mind. A Bear Bryant student with a horde of SEC Championship rings as a player and coach, Callaway knows what the heck he’s doing out there. I believe that. But what I will say is this: this is the crucible year for Callaway as far as displaying what he can do to make this offensive line unit perform at it’s peak ability. With four returning starters on this front, there really isn’t any reason it shouldn’t be one of the best in the nation. We’ve seen this unit thrive at it’s best (think Stanford 2017, Week 2). More recently, we’ve also seen it struggle at it’s worst (Ohio State, 2018 Cotton Bowl). By this point, USC has learned that as sexy as the blue-chip ballcarriers may be, it’s the big uglies on the trenches that win big games. I don’t care who’s under center playing quarterback this season for the Trojans; offensively, this team will live or die by the big guys up front.