Darnold and Helton earn end-of-season recognition
Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold continues to rack up silverware after a breakout rookie season, this time being named first-team Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America on Monday.
Darnold adds the accolade to his Rose Bowl offensive MVP, Archie Griffin Award and Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honor. He is the second USC signal-caller in history to be named to the team after Todd Marinovich in 1989.
During a season that catapulted the 19-year-old into national relevance, Darnold racked up more than 3,000 passing yards to go with 31 touchdowns (and just 9 interceptions). His historic Rose Bowl performance was the cherry on top, as he threw for five scores and accounted for nearly 500 yards of offense. He didn’t throw a single incompletion as he led the fierce Trojan comeback in the fourth quarter.
The FWAA also selected head coach Clay Helton as the First Year Co-Coach of the Year alongside Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuentes. Helton’s job security was under scrutiny after USC’s slow start to its 2016 campaign, but a nine-game winning streak to end the season (USC’s longest since 2008-09) put all doubts to rest.
Achieving a famous Trojan trifecta for just the 13th time in the program’s history, Helton led his squad to wins over UCLA and Notre Dame this fall in addition to their Rose Bowl victory.
Helton also coached his team to wins over both eventual Pac-12 finalists, Colorado and Washington — the latter of which was later selected to the College Football Playoff. In addition to his first-year coaching honors, Helton is a finalist for the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award, which will be handed out on Wednesday.