True freshman JT Daniels has been named the starting quarterback for the Trojans football team, head coach Clay Helton announced Sunday.
He will be the second Trojan in history starting behind center to open the season as a true freshman, after Matt Barkley started against San Jose State in 2009. This decision comes after weeks of a three-way battle for the starting spot between Daniels, redshirt freshman Jack Sears and redshirt sophomore Matt Fink.
“We had a very healthy quarterback competition this year with four incredible young men,” Helton said. “All are tremendous people, teammates and football players. In the end, JT Daniels has earned the starting position and will be the starter against UNLV. As you can imagine [Daniels] was excited when we let him know, but his uncanny maturity kept him focused on what is next.”
Daniels has been lauded as a phenom since his time at Mater Dei High School. Daniels’ high school career ended a year early due to his choice to reclassify into the class of 2018. He is only the second player in USC history to reclassify in order to graduate from high school a year early, the first being John David Booty in 2003.
In his final year of football at Mater Dei, Daniels averaged 274.9 yards, 3.5 touchdowns and 17.5 completions per game. His efforts on the turf helped to lead Mater Dei to the 2017 California State Open Division championship. Following his 2017 season, he was awarded the 2017-18 Gatorade High School Male Athlete of the Year.
“I am honored that Coach Helton picked me as the starter,” Daniels said. “I understand this it is a huge responsibility and I need to work hard to be prepared to handle it. It was a tight competition between all the quarterbacks throughout camp. We pushed each other every day. I felt that Coach’s decision wouldn’t be wrong whoever he picked.”
The decision to start Daniels the first week came as a surprise to some who felt Helton would select Fink, the only quarterback on the roster with collegiate experience. Fink appeared in three games last fall, completing six of his nine attempted passes.
Daniels will have big shoes to fill as he replaces Sam Darnold, who led the Trojans to a Rose Bowl victory in his first season as a redshirt freshman and secured a Pac-12 Championship in his second season. Darnold was drafted by the New York Jets in this year’s NFL Draft.
USC enters the season ranked No. 15 and will host UNLV at the Coliseum on Sept. 1.