The USC Trojans are one of the biggest football programs in the country — and for those that follow history, their legacy speaks for itself.
But the legacy hasn’t necessarily been at the same level in the last decade as history shows.
Clay Helton has been a head coach that has faced a lot of scrutiny — but it’s simply because he succeeded a few coaches who weren’t fit for the job.
Pete Carroll was probably the last best coach in Trojans’ football history. After him, Lane Kiffin came in — then Ed Orgeron and Helton took over after he was not retained for a bowl game — then Steve Sarkisian.
But the one coach who remained in the fold was Helton. He took over in the interim after coaches were fired.
Many kids who grew up in Southern California would love the opportunity to play for the Trojans. But with so much uncertainty as of late, it can be the best business decision to choose Oregon, Stanford, or Washington.
The young men in the 2021 recruitment class chose USC over many other schools because they believe in the legacy and want to help bring the Trojans back to greatness — and this is the best recruitment class after two years of failure.
Each position brings a separate set of skills, and with so many players that declared for the NFL draft, versatility is the best skill set to have.
For the quarterback position, there are two players who are coming on campus and it’s best to bring their optimism with them — Miller Moss and Jaxson Dart.
The Trojans likely have their guy in Kedon Slovis for the upcoming year, so both of the young players have to understand what they’re up against. If the Trojans open up the competition, it might be something to watch out for. If Slovis is the guaranteed starter, it’s wise to say not everyone can handle joining a team where they may not get a chance to play for a full season.
Once Slovis finishes his junior year, and if he declares for the draft, the starting spot will be open. That’s something to look forward to.
Let’s break down the two guys.
Moss is labeled as a four-star pro-style quarterback ranked eighth in the position in the class.
247Sports’ Greg Biggins evaluated him in 2018 and compared him to Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins, saying he’s “a pure thrower with nice pocket presence and feel for the position.” In 2020, he was evaluated again by Biggins and compared to future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, saying he has “one of the quickest releases in the country … extremely poised and never looks nervous or hurried.”
Based on Biggins’ observations, Moss brings composure, intelligence, accuracy, and awareness. Those traits are necessary for any quarterback looking to make it to the league — and a quarterback who can succeed in offensive coordinator Graham Harrell’s Air Raid offense.
Jaxson Dart is also labeled as a four-star pro-style quarterback ranked seventh in the position in the class.
247Sports’ Blair Angulo evaluated Dart in 2020 and compared him to Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith, saying he’s an accurate passer with very good arm strength and timing, plus “athletic and gritty enough to run for tough yardage.”
Based on Angulo’s observations, Dart looks to be a pretty similar quarterback to Moss with intelligence, accuracy, and composure plus the ability to keep the play alive using his legs when he needs to.
In his case, he’s going to give Moss and any other quarterback looking at the starting role a run for their money.
Slovis can benefit from two young, hungry quarterbacks on the team with a strong work ethic. It would likely elevate his game to a new level in the upcoming season.
Moss definitely left his mark during his junior year, completing 67.4% of his passes for 3,118 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions plus running for 105 yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns in 12 games.
Dart was fortunate enough to play his senior year of football and he had some eye-opening stats, completing 69.6% of his passes for 4,691 yards with 67 touchdowns (that is not a typo) and four interceptions plus 1,195 yards on 128 carries and 12 touchdowns in 14 games.
Slovis’s stat line was along the same lines last season, completing 67% of his passes for 1,921 yards with 17 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in six games.
No matter how it goes, one of the two young men coming in will get to lead the Trojans at some point.
There’s usually one thing in the back of the minds of USC football fans when it comes to quarterbacks and their ability to succeed at the next level. It’s hard to say who can break the stigma.
Carson Palmer was drafted in 2003 and he was the last quarterback to succeed at the next level after his success at USC. Matt Leinart was a good player, Matt Barkley had a lot of potential, and Sam Darnold could have broken the trend — but none of them did (jury still out on Darnold).
The season starts the first weekend of September — about six months left of the offseason.