They arrived as top-10 quarterback prospects and left as top-10 NFL draft picks, but they confronted one another solely as soon as — with Darnold profitable a thriller within the Coliseum final season.
Their monumental expertise was evident throughout their school careers, however the stability of energy within the rivalry seems to be very comparable after their departure to what it did upon their arrival. Below Darnold, USC received a Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl because the Trojans reasserted themselves as a Pac-12 energy. UCLA did little to shake its repute as an underachieving program underneath Rosen, although that was by way of little fault of his personal.
Name the 2018 season a reset within the rivalry. Two new quarterbacks and a brand new head coach current new potentialities in Los Angeles, however the query stays: Can UCLA study to punch above its weight underneath new head coach Chip Kelly or will USC’s edge in expertise proceed to maintain the Trojans a step forward within the Pac-12?
Kelly’s return to school will go extra easily if freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson helps him instantly set up the lightning-fast unfold offense that powered him to 46 wins in 4 seasons at Oregon. Thompson-Robinson was ESPN’s No. 2 dual-threat QB prospect in 2018, and his offense at Bishop Gorman Excessive in Las Vegas was similar to Kelly’s Oregon offense.
“The offense is mostly catered toward me [more] than any other quarterback in that room,” Thompson-Robinson instructed ESPN in Could. “It’s what I’ve been doing all my life. So it’s really just up to how hard I work. If I go in there and lay an egg, it’s definitely not gonna be my job. If I go in there and do me, I definitely think it’s my job to lose.”
With Ohio State’s Tate Martell one 12 months forward of him, Thompson-Robinson didn’t begin till his senior season at Bishop Gorman. But he was the nation’s No. 34 prospect, throwing for three,275 yards with 38 touchdowns and three interceptions. He additionally ran for 426 yards with seven extra scores and spent the spring operating monitor.
“If I go in there and lay an egg, it’s definitely not gonna be my job. If I go in there and do me, I definitely think it’s my job to lose.”
In his breakout efficiency within the Below Armour All-America Recreation in January, Thompson-Robinson appeared the a part of the fluid operating quarterback Kelly loves, however he additionally confirmed spectacular arm abilities, throwing for 118 yards and a landing.
“He was a priority, to make sure we kept him committed,” Kelly stated of Thompson-Robinson on nationwide signing day.
For Clay Helton at USC, there’s extra strain for a quick quarterback rebuild. The success he had with Darnold helped restore some nationwide credibility at USC, but it surely may very well be undone in a short time with out the precise quarterback, significantly in a Pac-12 South that has added Kelly and Kevin Sumlin at Arizona. The expectation of retaining the Trojans in competition will outweigh the 21 wins of Helton’s first two seasons as full-time head coach.
Into the combination steps J.T. Daniels, the nation’s No. three pocket passer, who took the weird step by reclassifying and skipping his total senior 12 months of highschool to enroll at USC this month. At 6-foot-2 and dealing to get to 210 kilos, Daniels seems to be the half, and all his movie reveals easy passes from a man who could make all of the throws.
“I’ve started varsity in the No. 1 league in America for three years,” Daniels instructed CBS Sports activities this spring. “I’ve seen enough of what the Trinity League has to offer. … I don’t think there’s much more to learn in high school for me.”
Daniels, the Nationwide Gatorade Participant of the Yr, began calling his personal performs as a sophomore at nationwide energy Mater Dei in Santa Ana, California, about 35 miles from USC’s campus. He broke former USC star and Mater Dei alum Matt Barkley‘s faculty report with 12,zero14 profession passing yards and threw 152 landing passes to solely 14 interceptions.
Throughout a jam-packed spring with double the tutorial workload, Daniels made it to almost each USC apply to take psychological reps and research movie with coaches. As quarterbacks Matt Fink and Jack Sears plodded by way of 15 up-and-down practices, Daniels was proper there, his presence overshadowing their each throw.
“He attacks it, man. He gets after it,” USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin stated. “He’s a gym rat when it comes to watching film. He’s been doing installs since official visits. He’s the first player I ever saw that on his official visit, all he wanted to do was football. Most guys want to hang out, want to see stuff. This guy’s already past that. He’s like, ‘I want to get in the playbook and start learning.’ When you see him and you start talking it with him, he’s already speaking the language, he already knows it, he talks like he’s been here for a couple of years.”
Trojans coaches have gushed over Daniels’ throwing capability, but it surely’s what’s circulating between his ears that has them much more impressed.
“He’s further along than most freshmen I’ve ever been around, and that’s exciting,” USC quarterbacks coach Bryan Ellis stated. “He wants somebody to tell him something at all times, and that’s fun as a coach to understand that he’s gonna always soak it up like a sponge.”
One other enjoyable subplot on this rising QB rivalry is the truth that they’re already aware of one another. Daniels received the higher of Thompson-Robinson final September, with Mater Dei’s 35-21 victory snapping Bishop Gorman’s 55-game win streak. Thompson-Robinson, who has saved tabs on Daniels ever since, threw two expensive interceptions within the loss and it is nonetheless consuming him up.
“I definitely want my rematch,” he stated. “I honestly can’t wait. I was so pissed that we lost because we could have won that game. When I get my opportunity, he better believe I’m gonna take it. I can’t wait.”
And possibly that shot at redemption will in reality come shortly. Neither the Bruins nor the Trojans received a lot completed at quarterback this spring.
Sears and Fink have been uncomfortable turnover machines by way of the primary half of spring, and neither improved sufficient to generate a lot confidence within the place exiting spring.
Kelly targeted totally on set up this spring, however Modster and Lynch fought inconsistency the entire time, leading to shaky spring recreation performances for each.
Speight threw for greater than three,000 yards in three seasons at Michigan, however he is coming back from a again harm.
Arizona’s Khalil Tate, who had 1,411 dashing yards in 11 video games final season, might see his Heisman hopes elevated with the arrival of Sumlin, however his throwing capability remains to be a query after he threw 9 touchdowns to seven interceptions in Pac-12 play. Manny Wilkins has a brand new head coach and offense at Arizona State, and Stanford spent the spring with a walk-on at quarterback as a result of Okay.J. Costello and Davis Mills have been damage.
The paradox underneath heart within the Pac-12 helps the trigger for the freshmen, however these coaches additionally perceive how essential early improvement is for these younger quarterbacks. The taking part in discipline might sound extra stage, however coaches wish to make completely positive earlier than setting these QBs free.
“You have to be smart enough as a coaching staff to say, ‘OK, this is what we can handle at this moment, right now, and let’s lean on our strengths,'” Helton stated. “It’s unrealistic to come out here and say, ‘Hey, he’s going to be Sam Darnold or Matt Barkley or Cody Kessler day one.'”