Now that Clay Helton‘s status at USC has officially been solidified, the head coach can now turn at least a portion of his attention to the future of the program under center.
Last year, JT Daniels became just the second true freshman (Matt Barkley, 2009) to start a season opener at quarterback for USC, going on to start 10 more games in 2018. The starter entering 2019, a torn ACL in this season’s opener prematurely ended Daniels’ sophomore campaign; that injury opened the door for another true freshman, Kedon Slovis, to grab the job and run with it — or pass with it as the case may be as Slovis has shined, passing for 3,242 yards and 28 touchdowns in nine starts (he essentially missed two full games with a concussion). In four of the past five games, he’s thrown for at least 400 yards, including a school-record 515 in the win over rival UCLA in the regular-season finale.
Slovis’ rise and Daniels’ recovery give Helton and his offensive coaching staff a potential dilemma when it comes to its starter for the 2020 season. It also gives rise to the question: would the loser of next year’s competition hit the portal, as is ofttimes the case in the sport in this day and age?
When it comes to one-half of the signal-calling equation, that apparently won’t be the case.
“JT is definitely staying,” Daniels’ father, Steve Daniels, told 247Sports.com. “He’s happy for Clay and has a great relationship with him but to be honest, no matter what happened with the coaching situation, JT was going to stay and compete. He loves it at SC, he has an SC tattoo on his leg so he’s pretty committed to the program.
“He’s a very competitive kid and has never run from a challenge before. Kedon played really well and JT was happy for him but at the same time, JT is a competitor and once he’s back to 100%, he wants to compete for that job.”
It’s expected that Daniels will not be a full participant in spring practice as he continues his recovery from the knee injury, which would allow Slovis to gain a further edge. It’s expected that Daniels will be 100-percent healthy for the start of summer camp next August.