USC to keep QB competition open this week after Jaxson Dart emerges – Orange County Register


Donte Williams wants to instill a sense of competition, responsibility and urgency within the USC football program as the new interim head coach. Providence on Saturday offered him the perfect opportunity to make a true statement on these intentions.

Starting quarterback Kedon Slovis left the game against Washington State in the first quarter after a blow to the head. Substitute Jaxson Dart came on and led a two touchdown return, playing on a knee injury himself to help the Trojans to a 45-10 victory.

Williams said on Sunday that Slovis’s x-rays and MRI scans came back negative. So the junior quarterback is expected to return to training this week for what Williams has described as “the quarterback battle.”

“I think part of the reason people don’t succeed and develop is because they get complacent,” said Williams. “It’s not just at the shift, it’s at every shift. I want to make sure guys are never complacent. You feel too comfortable, all of a sudden you start to realize that training might not be that important to you and you start to look forward to Saturday and the game.

The thing is, it’s not a Williams facade. Dart has legitimately argued that he was the starter to move forward with his performance in his college debut.

USC had struggled to move the ball through the air in the first two games of the season with the departure of Slovis, averaging 6.1 yards per attempt and 239.5 passing yards per game. And in those games, USC benefited from a robust rushed attack to relieve the quarterback.

Against Washington State, the ground game was stalled as USC rushed for 48 yards on 25 attempts. But Dart threw for 391 yards and four touchdowns. There were freshman mistakes like two interceptions and a fumble, but he broadcast it in a way USC couldn’t do this year, completing eight passes for 15 yards or more.

And, perhaps most importantly, Dart was able to play like this without USC diluting the playbook for him in his early days.

Most of this came after he injured his knee in a run in the second quarter, which caused him to limp the rest of the game.

“Just for him to stay in this game and keep fighting, it shows what kind of a warrior he is,” said Williams. “He made a couple of shots which I thought were great shots on the field. ”

Slovis is still the incumbent. And while he’s yet to reach the heights of his freshman season, he brings a lot of experience to the role that a true freshman can’t duplicate.

“It’s like having a coach on the pitch,” said Williams. “He’s one of those guys who will always do the right reading. He spends the extra time studying. He understands the importance of what he has to do.

Prior to the Washington state game, USC planned to use Dart with limited capability in short range and red zone situations. But now he has had the opportunity to compete for the first full-time job eight months after arriving on campus.

Williams said he and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell will work together to make the decision, which will not be announced until the Oregon State game on Saturday. And he doesn’t rule out the possibility of a two-quarterback look if it’s in the best interests of the team.

“Both guys are more than capable of producing and both guys are capable of playing,” said Williams. “These aren’t guys who would just start at USC. These two guys would be pretty darn close to starting anywhere in the country. We are fortunate to have both.

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