Sophomore quarterback JT Daniels will miss the rest of the 2019 season with a torn meniscus and an injured ACL, head coach Clay Helton announced Sunday.
Daniels suffered the injury with 27 seconds to go in the first half against Fresno State Saturday after taking a sack and losing a fumble. Helton said after the game that Daniels’ X-ray had come back negative, but an MRI later that night revealed the season-ending injury.
Helton said that Daniels will be receiving surgery in the upcoming weeks and that he is expected to recover within 9 to 12 months.
Daniels started all but one game for the Trojans last season and threw for 2,672 yards and 14 touchdowns in 11 games.
“I want to thank [Daniels] for the amount of work that he put in, not only to himself but to our football team,” Helton said. “The offseason that he had was just tremendous and it was really nice to be able to see what he was doing in the first half.”
Daniels performed admirably before exiting Saturday’s game, including a nearly perfect opening drive where he completed 10 of 11 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. It looked like new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell’s Air Raid offense favored the young quarterback, with its quick tempo and focus on simple passing plays.
“We have a saying that [wide receivers] coach Keary Colbert says: ‘So what, now what?’,” redshirt senior defensive lineman Christian Rector said after the game. “We’re looking at the next play, looking at the next guy to step up, and whatever happens, happens.”
True freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis, a three-star recruit out of Scottsdale, Ariz., started the second half in Daniels’ place. Slovis unexpectedly beat out redshirt junior Matt Fink and redshirt sophomore Jack Sears for the backup role this fall. Harrell cited Slovis’ consistency and ability to make challenging passes among the reasons for the decision.
Although Slovis did not expect to be called on, redshirt junior wide receiver Tyler Vaughns said that his teammate seemed ready to come into the game.
“We kept him steady, but he was already ready to come in,” Vaughns said. “He came in, jumped up, shook everybody’s hand and said, ‘Let’s go, let’s get it.’”
Slovis’ apparent nerves resulted in several costly mistakes from the Trojans — an interception, a botched fourth-down and nearly a fumble on the game’s final snap. However, he also showed flashes of excellence, including a 41-yard completion to Vaughns which put the Trojans in position for a touchdown.
Now that Daniels will miss the rest of the season, Slovis must prepare to face rival Stanford next Saturday. Stanford entered the season ranked No. 25 and is coming off a 17-7 win over Northwestern. It remains to be seen whether Slovis can stack up against better competition.
“Any time you’re thrown into that situation and you find a way to win a close ball game, you’ve done your job as a backup quarterback,” Helton said. “Now his role changes to a starter and the preparation that comes with it … We look forward to helping him and helping our football team get ready for a good Stanford team.”