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WeAreSC Roundtable: QB Depth Chart

WeAreSC staffers react to the news that JT Daniels has been named the starting quarterback for the 2019 season, as well as the announced quarterback depth chart.

Erik McKinney

There was no surprise that Daniels was named the starter. While I don’t feel he dominated the competition every day from beginning to end, he certainly did what he needed to do to maintain his status as the starter, and was helped by the fact that none of the other three quarterbacks really did anything to steal the spot.

There was some surprise, however, when Clay Helton revealed that Kedon Slovis was No. 2, Matt Fink was No. 3, and Jack Sears was No. 4. I wouldn’t have any problem heading into a game right now with Sears as my quarterback, but it’s obvious from this announcement that he just doesn’t fit what this coaching staff wants from the position and the offense as a whole. I do think Jack has the ability to play quarterback at this level and am interested to see what the future holds for him, at USC or elsewhere. I also thinks this makes a big statement about Slovis, who was really impressive during spring ball, but didn’t seem to sustain that momentum every day of fall camp. Still, there is enough to like about Slovis to feel good about his potential in this offense. There is an interesting question that exists, as to whether the staff really would go to Slovis in a Game 1 or Game 2 situation if Daniels needed to come out for a play or any extended time, but that could be answered down the line.

For now, it’s good to have the starter settled, so the offense can continue putting the plan together for Fresno State and the rest of the season.

Greg Katz

I certainly wasn’t shocked or surprised that JT was named the starter. Who was? Based on past Helton history, this was lockstep with what I expected. In watching the competition, there certainly wasn’t all that much that separated all four quarterbacks at times. If anything, it wasn’t like JT was a mile ahead of the competition. That being said, I have no qualms if he begins the season as the starter. I am already on record as saying that whomever starts the season probably won’t be the starter into it. I am taking into account the potential for injury, team record, and the other intangibles. That being said, I have been more curious or concerned about the “pecking order” after a starter was named. When I saw Jack Sears as the No. 4 quarterback, I was blown away, and I suspect many of Jack’s older teammates felt the same way. Make me the coach and I would have started Sears against Fresno State, and I base that on what Jack can do in a game because of his mobility and “gamer” attitude and respect of his teammates. Jack already proved against ASU last season that he was one difficult quarterback to defend. However, to make the former San Clemente High star last behind a true freshman, Kedon Slovis, who has never taken a snap, and another quarterback, Matt Fink, who was looking at one point to transfer, is quite an eyeful. Don’t get me wrong, Slovis is talented and poised for the most part beyond his years, and Fink has greatly improved. Lastly, you either give credit to Clay Helton for showing a gutsy move in making Slovis No. 2 or you have to question why would a coach with his job supposedly on the line and wins at a premium take a chance on bringing a true freshman off the bench to save his skin? Of course, maybe when push comes to shove, Helton and Graham Harrell will leapfrog one of the more experienced quarterbacks over Slovis if that time comes for a Daniels replacement. And I wouldn’t rule out “politics” in the overall pecking order, although I am not much into conspiracy theories, but the depth chart certainly raises some eyebrows.

Kevin Bruce

JT was always going to be named the starter absent a catastrophic event. The competition was more a kabuki dance than a competition. The Slovis move is on surface shocking. The cynical part of me says, “hey Fink and Sears are gone end of this season so sign up Slovis now”. What we don’t know about Slovis is his real collegiate game performance since he has none. Sears we know, and dropping him to 4th position means JT better not take a head shot or twisted knee. Can anyone visualize if JT can’t answer the bell against say Utah, Stanford, BYU, UW or ND?? When we trot out Slovis the OL better protect him as the defenses will be licking their chops. No real run game as a Plan B so it’s QB in the cross hairs. I harken back to Aaron Corp’s debut in Seattle against UW, not pretty and we had a run game then. I have real concerns about whether JT plays every game this season. We saw that last year and I expect the pounding to get to him again, so Slovis will play this year as starter for at least one game in my view. He’ll be better prepared but still a neophyte. Experience will help as long as you survive it.

By the way, does Sears get to run the scout team now?

Chris Arledge

I don’t want this to sound critical, dear readers, because I love me a good message board meltdown, and I’m not afraid to partake in a little meltdown myself on occasion.  But that meltdown when Clay Helton released the quarterback depth chart was one for the ages.  

So I have just one question: didn’t everybody here already know that JT Daniels would be named the starting QB?  Clay Helton thought he was the best guy last year when he had no experience.  Did you really think he would find him to be worse than one of the other guys this year?

But, you say, Clay said Graham Harrell would pick the starting quarterback.  Well, coaches say lots of things.  Clay said we’d be running the Stanford offense too.  But there is no way that a head football coach, on the hottest of seats in the country, who happens to be a former QB and a QB coach, is going to let anybody other than his guy start at QB.  Not.  Gonna.  Happen.  Wouldn’t be prudent.

Besides, we have no reason to believe Helton and Harrell disagreed on this call.  Back in the spring, I noted that Harrell’s comments on quarterback play sounded very pro-Daniels, because the new O coordinator mentioned the importance of experience and reps about five times in a single answer.  Only one QB on this team has a lot of reps.  If Harrell cares about experience and reps, the incumbent starter must begin the competition way ahead in Harrell’s mind.

And Daniels may just be the best guy.  That is possible, is it not?  

In any event, best guy or not, JT Daniels is certainly Clay’s guy.  And if you’re facing an imminent threat to your entire career — and Clay is — you’re not going down without giving the ball to your guy.  

As for the backup call, I’ll concede that is shocking.  Is Slovis the next great USC quarterback?  Time will tell; I wouldn’t bet the mortgage payment on that just yet.  But if you think JT Daniels is the guy, and you want him to be confident, and you want him to be the undisputed leader of your team, what can you do to make sure that he isn’t looking over his shoulder?  What can you do to make clear to your entire team that JT Daniels will be your starter and there will be no quick hook if he struggles?  You name the unheralded true freshman as his backup.  Now everybody knows.  This wasn’t a close QB competition.  This isn’t a situation where Jack Sears could replace Daniels at any time.  The QB competition — to the extent there was one — is over.  I mean really, really over.  JT is the guy, like it or not.  

One last point: this shows why it’s tough to be an embattled coach.  After you’ve lost credibility with the fans and media, fans don’t complain or question your decisions in civil tones.  Once you’re lost credibility, every major decision brings out the pitchforks.  Kids, if you want to be the USC head football coach someday — and we’ve had six head coaches since 2009, so at this pace there’s a decent chance everybody will eventually get a shot — don’t go 5-7.  If you do that at a place like USC, you might feel like the dictator of a tin-pot third world country, sleeping in a different location every night, hiring doubles to stand in for you at public appearances, etc.  It’s a tough life.  Fortunately, as tough as the job is when you get to that point, it probably won’t last very long, and the golden parachute will buy a nice beach house in Maui.   

Darrell Rideaux

No Surprise with Daniels being named the starter. In fact, I am impressed Clay Helton made a decision early enough in camp to allow his team to build rapport around JT Daniels as the official starting QB. However, I would be surprised if his teammates voted him as a captain. No, I say that with a straight face because I am not sure that Daniels has done enough during the off season to have won his teammates over and made them feel that he was the overwhelming leader in the locker room. 

Other surprises would be Slovis listed as the Number 2 and Sears falling to 4th on the roster. The coaches have all spoken to the simplicity of the offense and how athleticism should thrive, yet Sears could not separate from the pack despite possessing the athletic intangibles. Perhaps it’s in between the helmet and less about the athleticism for new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell. 

As for Slovis, he has seemed to grasp the concept of efficiency and hitting the intermediate route combinations, which is proven to be vital for the success of this offense. The quarterback position is becoming less dependent of a Heisman Trophy-caliber performance and is more reliant upon a game manager moving the chains through precision and good decision making, considering the amount of quality depth at the skilled positions. 

JT Dainels will now have the time to build chemistry with the starters and work his way into to peak performance leading up to kickoff versus Fresno State.