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USC's Kedon Slovis is right in the mix of the quarterback competition

USC's Kedon Slovis is right in the mix of the quarterback competition
USC coach Clay Helton watches players during a spring football practice on the campus of USC. (Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

After USC’s second scrimmage of the spring ended Saturday, the entire defense spent an extra five minutes doing up-downs, seemingly as a reminder of how easily the Trojans offense went up and down the field all morning.

The guys in white jerseys could thank Kedon Slovis for the added work. If Slovis had looked like an early enrollee who should still be in high school instead of a legitimate contender to move up the quarterback depth chart, the offense’s dominance over the defense may not have been so stark.

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On his first drive with the first-team offense, Slovis hit Amon-ra St. Brown in stride on an inside route that St. Brown took outside for a big gain down the sideline. Two plays later, he found St. Brown again for a touchdown.

On his last drive with the top skill group, in the final red zone session, Slovis found tight end Erik Krommenhoek for a touchdown over the middle.

“He asked me two days ago, ‘Coach, you mind if I go to prom?’ ” USC coach Clay Helton said. “I forgot he’s supposed to be in high school. But he’s out here and he’s really executing at a high level for a true freshman. He’s making clear, decisive decisions, has good accuracy, timing and decision making. He’s not making critical errors. That’s what you normally see from young people. Very pleased.”

Slovis was not a usual headline-grabbing USC quarterback recruit. He was a late bloomer because he did not start until his junior year at Desert Mountain High in Scottsdale, Ariz., and was rated a three-star prospect. Slovis learned quickly under the tutelage of NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, who was his quarterback coach at Desert Mountain.

USC was Slovis’ dream school, and when the Trojans saw his tape, then-quarterback coach Bryan Ellis quickly visited and made an offer.

Throughout spring practice, Slovis has appeared unfazed by what is asked of him in Graham Harrell’s offense.

“I’ll have to credit Coach Warner on that one,” Helton said. “I thought he came in very maturely, like a lot of our quarterbacks do here. He’s a work-ethic guy, puts a lot of study into it and wants to be great. He’s got a bright future.”

Slovis has established himself alongside Matt Fink and Jack Sears in the race to challenge incumbent starter JT Daniels.

No matter who ran the offense Saturday, the results were positive. Daniels opened the scrimmage with a touchdown pass to Michael Pittman Jr. over the middle. Fink led a drive late that kicked off with a deep vertical route to Pittman and finished with a touchdown pass to Devon Williams over the middle.

“We’re looking at all four guys,” Helton said. “That was our main goal, to be able to have all four guys in a situation where we could evaluate everybody. I think [offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach] Graham [Harrell] and the offensive staff have done a wonderful job of mixing every guy in with the ones, forcing them to get in there and see what they can do. It’s going to provide us a great examination by the end of 15 practices to see where we’re at at the position.”

Clean operation

USC has had referees attend each practice this spring in an effort to clean up the penalties that plagued the Trojans last season.

They didn’t get to do much the last few days.

“Literally two days, over 200 plays with only one penalty,” Helton said. “I was praying to God we could make it through today. We had one false start.”

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Helton said simplifying the offense under Harrell has helped that unit in particular with penalties.

“We’ve really stressed fundamentals and technique, and I think it’s paying off,” Helton said. “When I’m watching the tape, I’m not seeing a bunch of holding calls. I’m not seeing us out of position. I think we’re doing the proper things to not only win our matchups but not create penalties. Our guys understand now that there are repercussions. As soon as the right tackle jumps offsides, he’s out. They understand what comes with that type of error.”

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