Another spring football season is in the books for the Trojan Football program, and the future of the program is as bright as it has been in the last decade. In addition to having a wunderkind under center, the Trojans are continuing to stockpile depth and talent as they are finally recovering from the cost of the 2010 NCAA sanctions.
The last decade has crowned two types of championship teams. One is a team led by a singular talent at quarterback, who carries an already talented and athletic team to the next level. This is how Auburn with Cam Newton, Florida State with Jameis Winston and Clemson with Deshaun Watson all won national titles. The other model is a deep and talented team with a vicious running game and stifling defense, like most of the Alabama teams that have won as well as Ohio State the year they won the national title.
Both types of teams were stocked with tremendous talent across the board. Florida State, Auburn and Clemson were all littered with NFL prospects across a multitude of positions. It is not that the quarterback was the only star — it was that Newton, Winston and Watson were so transcendent that their moxie and dynamic ability made the team unbeatable.
Having a star quarterback or an equally frightening defense is the only way to beat Alabama. The Crimson Tide is not accustomed to dealing with excellent quarterback play in the SEC, so when they face NFL-caliber talent, they are more likely to surrender yards and touchdowns. That was evident with Watson last year, and other incredible performances from the signal caller position have taken down the Tide in seasons past.
The good news about this model for Trojan fans is that USC has the best quarterback in college football. It is nice to see redshirt sophomore Sam Darnold finally receive the praise and hype he deserves. I was on the Darnold for Heisman campaign after watching his brief series at the end of the Stanford game, and his performances against Utah and Arizona State only solidified that belief. Each game he seemed to improve, and this spring has been another step up in his linear growth.
Many point to the offensive line as a potential weak spot this next year due to the loss of three talented veteran linemen. However, if a normal quarterback was behind center last season, the Trojans would have had a pedestrian offensive line at best. Darnold evaded defenders constantly, making something out of nothing four or five plays a game. There is no reason to think this won’t happen again next season, demonstrating Darnold’s penchant for making everyone better around him.
If Darnold can stay healthy all season, the Trojans should not lose a single game. Battling a Texas team led by Tom Herman might pose a challenge early on in the season, but across the board the Trojans have the chance to have a special season next year.
In addition to Darnold, they have an abundance of talent at the skill positions, which is only further amplified by the quarterback’s ability to spread the ball around. The defense is going to be fast and physical at every level, and while they may give up some big plays, they also should force some turnovers next season.
It is crazy to say only a year removed from an awful beat down at the hands of Alabama, but with Darnold at the helm, the Trojans can play with anyone. As long as he plays all year, I think the Trojans end the season as the national champion. It would not be a shock for scouts and pundits to start calling Darnold a generational talent, which he is. With the right talent around players like him, teams win titles. Spring is only a small sample size, but it looks like the Trojans might follow the model for next season.
Jake Davidson is a senior majoring in accounting. His column, “Davidson’s Direction,” runs on Mondays.