Weiner: Dart the right choice now and for the future

Posted on November 3, 2021

  By Matt Weiner, SportsPac12

Wlike Chris Rock just when he said “Are men as faithful as their options?”

Maybe not for all situations, but it could be by looking at the USC quarterback situation.

Ask JT Daniels.

Former USC QB JT Daniels | Jennifer Stewart / Getty Images

In early 2018, the writing was on the wall for Daniels to become a star. In 2017, he led Mater Dei High School to a national championship and, in the process, became the National Gatorade Player of the Year.

Anyone and everyone with a worthwhile mind knew that he would be the next rung on the ladder from Mater Dei to USC that includes the likes of Matt Leinart, Matt Barkley and Sam Darnold.

Prepared to become the first player since Barkley in 2009 to start out as a true freshman, his roof reached beyond the cosmos.

The best part of his career ended before it started. For a first-year starter, Daniels was mediocre. As the replacement for a top 10 pick in the draft, he was a total disappointment.

The 2018 season ended with USC losing 3 of its last 4 games, including two losses to end the year against rivals UCLA and Notre Dame.

When he hurt his knee in the first game of the season against Fresno State, Daniels was forced to sit back and watch freshman Kedon Slovis take away his Trojan fame and fortune.

Slovis dazzled in his debut season, throwing for 3,502 yards and completing passes at an impressive 72%. Daniels was like an iPod touch, old-fashioned and boring, while Slovis was like an iPhone, cutting edge and full of endless possibilities.

Daniels transferred to Georgia for the 2020 season, and after losing the starting job multiple times, his cliff is now his peak.

JT Daniels offers a warning, but informative, about what happens in college football. In a business based on results and projections, the loyalty chain of the coaches reaches these two variables.

USC’s Kedon Slovis vs. Arizona by Harry How / Getty Images

Now Slovis could be learning the same lesson as Daniels with the emergence of true freshman Jaxson Dart.

He was at the Colosseum when Dart made his home debut last Saturday, sparking one of the biggest roars from the Trojans faithful all season.

The power transition took place in the second quarter after a boring 11-play drive that resulted in 34 yards, led by Kedon Slovis. The atmosphere felt closer to a tryout bungalow than a stadium.

The fans in front of my section were scrolling on their phones and chatting without doing anything. But when Dart came to replace Slovis, the Colosseum woke up.

They were hit with a pair of invisible defibrillators in the form of a boy from Kaysville, Utah, with a puka shell necklace and a black eye beam on the right side of his face.

Dart responded to the warm welcome with a 96-yard touchdown. He was agile and tactical. On the first attempt since Arizona’s 14th, he hit London for 12 yards and then ran to the scrimmage line to hit it again and score.

USC’s Jaxson Dart vs. Arizona | Leon Bennett / Getty Images

Realizing Arizona was struggling to replace the lineman and grooming the players was a phenomenal display of conscience for a rookie in his second game.

He accomplished something Slovis couldn’t do: get the fans involved. Until that touchdown, the only time fans in the stadium were on their feet and cheering was for the three USC veterans who recently graduated.

Between the extra point and kickoff, the Jumbotron’s graphics were suddenly not overlooked.

Before that Dart landing in London, attendees scrolled on their phones in between the action, but now they were hooked on a segment where USC players had to identify objects from the ’90s.

Pointing and panting at Greg Johnson who couldn’t identify a Gameboy while clapping for Vavae Malepai when he could. When the DJ put “Hey Macarena!” all over the stadium people spread their arms and spread their palms.

I think Pete Carroll said he knew Matt Leinart was the real deal when he got the crowd to do the Macarena, I’m paraphrasing and possibly making up what he said, but you get the point.

On the ensuing possession, Dart was phenomenal once again, leading USC down the field for a six-play, 62-yard drive that was recorded in 2 minutes and 45 seconds.

USC’s Drake London vs. Arizona | Leon Bennett / Getty Images

Aside from the devastating injury, things were going great for the Trojans. They were up 28-7 with four minutes left in the middle and were on their way to dropping a 50 burger to the Wildcats.

For reasons I can’t understand, interim head coach Donte Williams decided to put Slovis back in the game. He contributed 20 points for the rest of the game; well technically 13 if you leave out the pick-six he threw to start the second half.

Dart ended up having to return to the game in the fourth quarter for a field goal after Slovis was mediocre in the third quarter.

Now I’m not sure if an interim head coach can be fired or relegated to his starting role, but if ever there was such a case, this would be it. After Dart’s second touchdown, the Colosseum was more alive than ever, so why take it out?

Imagine ordering a sample at Baskin Robbins, which will blow your mind, but when you order it, the cashier refuses and says “you’ll have to come back another time to buy it.”

Movements like this are unpleasant because it reminds fans that the team is choosing the path of inertia. Slovis clearly can’t make plays happen if he doesn’t involve Drake London, while Dart’s double threat abilities force teams to cover the entire field.

Heading into Saturday’s game, Williams had this to say about the situation:

“It’s about getting the right guy on the field for us to win the football game, whatever that entails.”

The right guy is Dart, there are no two ways to do it.

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