Missing out on spring football practice doesn’t really compare to the serious issue facing the world as it looks to stop the spread of COVID-19. But it could still have a fairly significant effect on the program and the 2020 USC Trojan football season. In this series, we’ll take a position-by-position look at what exactly missing spring ball could mean for the Trojans, starting with the quarterbacks.
At this point, spring ball is technically still postponed. But the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended that there be no gatherings of more than 50 people (a USC spring ball practice would certainly qualify) for at least eight weeks. USC has also announced that it will continue online or remote classes through the remainder of the academic semester. There is certainly a potential opportunity for some kind of out-of-season practices before fall camp, if the NCAA can react quickly enough to enact enough changes to its rules in order to accommodate that. But in this space, we are commenting on USC missing out on spring ball in its usual form and time.
Kedon Slovis is coming off one of the best true freshman seasons for a quarterback in college football history and after suffering an elbow strain in the Holiday Bowl against Iowa, Slovis was back and fully healthy for the start of spring ball.
While he was on a bit of a pitch count to start the spring, Slovis was going to have an opportunity to take control of the quarterback position for the Trojans. As Slovis had a full grasp of the offense and there was absolutely zero new installation going on this spring, getting a chance to work closely with the young receivers like Bru McCoy, Kyle Ford, John Jackson III, Gary Bryant and Joshua Jackson would have helped the offense take a major step forward this spring.
There was a lot of talk about leadership at the quarterback position last season, and these 15 practices would have allowed Slovis to get even more comfortable in the pocket, in the huddle and in the locker room as the undisputed leader.
At most, JT Daniels might have been able to throw some passes during one-on-one work with wide receivers against defensive backs at the very end of the spring ball session. But now, without practices, Daniels can continue his rehab without worry that Slovis will entrench himself further as the USC starting quarterback.
It’s really difficult to come to grips with the idea that Slovis could lose the starting job after what he did last season, but not getting a spring ball as the starting quarterback all to himself and being forced away from the team due to canceling team activities might not allow him an opportunity to run away with the job. Of course, the coaches consistently preach that there is open competition at every position at all times.
This lack of spring ball looks like it presents Daniels with a good opportunity to climb the hill or bridge the gap between the two, because now maybe the hill isn’t so steep or the gap so wide. Daniels eventually winning the starting quarterback job at USC would likely be regarded as one of biggest surprises in college football this fall–not because of Daniels’ ability, but because of Slovis’ proven success in this system.
It also might mean we’re that much farther away from hearing a starting quarterback named for this season. Without these 15 appearances from Slovis and Matt Fink this spring, the coaches might want to wait a little bit longer this fall before naming their starter. Although, with the possibility that the No. 2 quarterback could quickly enter the transfer portal, the coaches might have wanted to delay that announcement as long as possible anyway, to guard against being left empty-handed in case of an injury.