NCAA Football

USC QB Daniels keeps starting job after open competition

By DAN GREENSPAN

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) Sophomore quarterback J.T. Daniels will start at Southern California for the second straight season.

Coach Clay Helton announced Tuesday that Daniels, who started 11 games as a freshman for the Trojans, won a four-man competition for the job over freshman Kedon Slovis, redshirt junior Matt Fink and redshirt sophomore Jack Sears.

With Helton hiring a new offensive coordinator in Graham Harrell to run the "Air Raid" spread offense, the embattled head coach decided to give all four quarterbacks a chance to compete. Daniels came out on top for the second straight training camp.

"We've had 30 practices, both 15 in spring and 15 in camp, and we feel confident where we are right now. We felt like we needed to move forward and allow more reps for the guys that are going to be in the one and two position, so we're going to name J.T. as the starting quarterback," Helton said Tuesday.

Daniels completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 2,672 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions during an erratic first season as USC finished 5-7, its first losing season since 2000. He was at his best in a 24-17 loss to No. 3 Notre Dame, completing 37 of 51 passes for 349 yards and one touchdown in a pass-heavy approach with an emphasis on quick throws that resembles the system Harrell is implementing at USC.

A five-star recruit in the class of 2019 from Mater Dei in Santa Ana, Calif., the same high school that produced 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, Daniels reclassified to enroll in college one year early after Sam Darnold declared for the NFL draft.

Helton said Daniels' consistency was the deciding factor and praised Daniels' willingness to fight to keep the starting position.

"You bring a new system in, there's competition," Helton said. "When you play college football or NFL, there's competition every day. Every 24 hours, you're competing. For him to walk into it very humble, very businesslike, and just show up to work every day and put his best foot forward was very impressive. And he earned it. He earned the job."

Slovis was named the backup ahead of Fink and Sears, who started against Arizona State when Daniels sustained a concussion. Fink entered the transfer portal in April and committed to Illinois before reversing course and returning to USC.

Helton said the remainder of the depth chart will be decided Friday.

USC opens the 2019 season at home against Fresno State on August 31.

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Updated August 20, 2019