How did this happen. How is one of the most prolific football schools in the country going to potentially put their seasons fate in the hands of a teenager? Well, lets starts from the top.
J.T. Daniels was a 2019 5-Star USC commit out of Mater Dei High School in southeast Anaheim. He held offers from seven other Pac-12 schools and 18 in total but stayed close to home by committing locally. You might not have caught that but he was originally in the 2019 recruiting class, so how did he end up enrolled by spring 2018? Well I’ll cut the shit and tell you because it’s wild.
Daniels completed two years of high school in one. His junior year was also his senior year. He took ten classes in total, seven in person and three online. Most people can barely do one year of school before they limp to the finish line of finals. But for Daniels, as a student athlete nonetheless, to complete twice the amount of homework, exams and projects is astonishingly impressive to say the least. On top of that, he had to complete his schools community service requirements of 80 hours for both his junior and senior years before he could graduate a year early. Daniels put in a massive amount of time and effort just to have the chance to compete.
Trojans head coach Clay Helton shouldn’t be afraid to hand over the reigns of the offense to him either. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart started a true freshman at quarterback for the majority of each season in 2016 and ‘17, with the latter working out very well. Teenage true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm took over for Georgia’s starter week 1, 2017 and played his balls off leading the bulldogs to the Natty with a 13-1 record. History has shown true freshman quarterbacks can struggle as starters, but the players with high pedigrees tend to struggle less. Daniels and Fromm were both rated as top 3 Pro-Style passers in their respective recruiting classes. Like Fromm, Daniels will be surrounded by tons of offensive weapons. Running back Stephen Carr has sick jukes and will lead the backfield this upcoming season, fellow Mater Dei alum and five star WR commit Amon-Ra St. Brown will be joining him in Pasadena, so there is already chemistry there and the team only lost one pivotal player from the wide receiving room this offseason. Daniels has more than enough talent around him to hide his inevitable blemishes.
College dynasties die when their talent pool dries up and the recruiting classes grow sluggishly like a plant in the shade. I blame Max Browne for the Trojan’s quarterback situation. The dude was a five star QB recruit and the no. 2 ranked QB when he came to USC in 2012. He was supposed to be the heir apparent to graduating senior and USC GOAT (Fight me it’s true) Matt Barkley. What a bust he was. Browne not Barkley, well Barkley was an NFL bust so if the shoe fits. But still Max Browne couldn’t beat out noodle armed Cody Kessler for two whole years. When he finally got the job, his career was short lived. In his only three games as a Trojan starter, Browne threw for an ugly 474 yards, two touchdowns(both in the same game) two interceptions and a 63% completion percentage. Sam Darnold took over in week 4, 2016 and led the team to a Rose Bowl berth. Browne eventually transferred to Pitt the following year where he was also benched mid season. So what does Browne the bust and darn-good Darnold have to do with J.T. Daniels again? Well, after a somewhat disappointing redshirt-junior season from Darnold, he jumped ship for the NFL leaving behind a worse QB room than the 2016 Cleveland Browns. Matt Fink, Jack Sears and Thomas Holden… talent pool = dry.
Enter J.T. Daniels. The early graduate from Matt Barkley’s high School Mater Dei. Another five star quarterback to enroll at USC, the 16th ranked player nationally and third overall quarterback. I don’t know why he looks like he’s in pain when he smiles but I’m sure walking around the USC campus as the winning starting quarterback will fix it.