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USC's depth chart will be released Sunday — but don't expect to find out who's starting at quarterback

USC's depth chart will be released Sunday — but don't expect to find out who's starting at quarterback
Freshman JT Daniels, center, looks for a receiving target while Jack Sears, from left to right in background, Bryan Ellis and Holden Thomas watch on Aug. 21. (Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)

When USC releases its depth chart Sunday, there will be no decision on the quarterbacks. Only the word “or.”

Coach Clay Helton said he would choose the starter after the Trojans’ scrimmage Saturday. He did not say when that decision would be announced — only that it would come in a statement.

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“I’ll garner all opinions, and then I’ll make the best decision for us as a team in this moment, in Game 1,” Helton said Thursday.

Helton said he would first inform the quarterbacks — JT Daniels, Jack Sears and Matt Fink — which one would be the starter. Their parents and the team then would be notified, before the formal announcement.

Helton has spent the week poring over training camp film, maintaining communication with offensive coordinator Tee Martin and quarterbacks coach Bryan Ellis.

Setting the rest of depth chart has left Helton seeking clarity. The margin between players can be as narrow as the air between Helton’s two pinched fingers, as he lamented the stress of parsing through a deep team.

“It’s really who’s producing the most in the moment right now and doing the best job, from alignment, assignment, production in their play,” Helton said.

This week of practice, set up to simulate a game week, has brought Helton closer to much-needed answers.

No matter what the depth chart says, it is hardly permanent. Helton said he told the players as much at Thursday’s practice. Helton intends to swap players to keep them fresh down the stretch.

More important than the order of names is how players perform in games, Helton said. He pointed to Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns, receivers who rose from depth-chart obscurity to go-to targets last season by making the most of in-game opportunities.

“It doesn’t matter where you start,” Helton said. “It’s what you do once you get that opportunity to get in. … Don’t get down if you’re No. 2. Make the most of your opportunity when you get in.”

Scrimmage plans

Saturday’s scrimmage probably will be a half-game of 40 to 45 plays.

Helton said it would simulate an away game, with some schemes mimicking Nevada Las Vegas, USC’s first opponent Sept. 1 at the Coliseum.

“I really want to see just a clean overall scrimmage, just to be honest with you,” Helton said.

Versatile receiving corps

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Amon-ra St. Brown has alternated between outside and inside during practice. Helton said the freshman receiver would be outside for most of the time but was slated to spend some time in the slot during the opening game.

“We have the capability with all our outside receivers to move them inside any time,” Helton said.

Etc.

Toa Lobendahn (knee, pectoral injury), Austin Jackson (ankle) and Jordan Iosefa (displaced kneecap) were held from practice for preventative measures, Helton said. … The offensive line’s depth is strained by Chuma Edoga’s labrum injury. He will not require surgery, but will be monitored, Helton said.

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