Matt Barkley officially has some company in some very rarefied air.
Throughout the offseason, redshirt sophomore Matt Fink, redshirt freshman Jack Sears and true freshman J.T. Daniels had been engaged in a three-way competition to replace Sam Darnold as USC’s starting quarterback. Fink had served as Darnold’s primary backup a year ago and entered spring practice as the favorite to win the job.
Sunday night, however, USC announced that it will be the true freshman who will be under center when the Trojans open the 2018 season against UNLV next Saturday afternoon.
Daniels will become just the second true freshman to ever begin the season as USC’s starting quarterback, joining Barkley in 2009.
Daniels should actually be heading into his senior season of high school instead of leading a Power Five offense, but the Santa Ana, CA, product reclassified from the Class of 2019 to the Class of 2018. He is also the second Trojan football player to graduate a full year early from high school in order to enroll at USC. The first? John David Booty in 2003.
The consensus five-star signee was rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the country; the No. 2 player at any position in the state of California; and the No. 16 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board. Only two members of the Trojans’ class this year — wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, linebacker Palaie Gaoteote — were rated higher than Daniels.
After playing host to UNLV in the opener, the 6-3, 210-pound Daniels and his USC teammates will travel to Stanford in Week 2 for their Pac-12 opener before heading to Austin for a Week 3 matchup with Texas. Both of the latter two games will be nationally-televised, primetime affairs.