They lost one quarterback to the transfer portal. They lost another to a knee injury. Then, on Friday night, on the first drive of a critical victory over Utah, the Trojans lost a third, freshman Kedon Slovis, for an entire game and possibly longer, pending clearance from the concussion protocol.
That left the third-string redshirt junior, Matt Fink, and a band of walk-ons as the only men standing on USC’s quarterback depth chart. Turns out, Fink was quite enough on his own, as he completed 70% of his passes and threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns in a stunning performance.
How long Fink will steer USC’s offense is still uncertain. On Sunday, USC coach Clay Helton had no update on Slovis’ status, other than to confirm that he remains in the concussion protocol. Slovis will be evaluated in the coming days, and Helton said he would offer a more detailed update Tuesday.
But with a road trip to Seattle and a matchup with No. 17 Washington looming, it’s fair to wonder how No. 21 USC (3-1, 2-0) might handle having just one healthy scholarship quarterback available. Asked on Sunday whether he might consider some kind of change at the position ahead of this week, Helton expressed confidence in the trio of walk-ons behind Fink.
“We have Brandon Perdue, we have Scott Harris, and we have Trevor Scully,” Helton said. “Brandon will have a package that he can understand, and then we’ll see where Kedon is going through the week and go from there. We’ve got three other quarterbacks that are on campus that we’ll have trained to be able to go in if needed.”
None of those three quarterbacks, however, have received anything close to meaningful reps at the college level.
Perdue, a redshirt junior who would likely serve as Fink’s immediate backup, is still listed on USC’s team site as a backup safety, where he filled in during the spring. As a senior at Oaks Christian, Perdue appeared in two games as a quarterback, completing 14 passes.
Harris, a freshman, played last at Fairfax High, while Scully, a redshirt freshman, hasn’t played since his senior season at La Jolla High.
If Slovis is forced to sit out this week or longer, Helton could potentially reach out to redshirt sophomore Jack Sears, who chose to enter the transfer portal last month after falling to fourth on USC’s depth chart.
It wouldn’t be unprecedented for a transferring Trojans quarterback to change his mind. Months before he breathed new life into USC’s season, Fink chose to enter the transfer portal. He visited other schools and nearly committed to Illinois. But he decided to return to USC, and Helton happily welcomed him back.
There’s no indication that Sears would make the same choice. But in a statement on Twitter announcing his decision to transfer, Sears did say that he “told Coach Helton I am available if the team needs me.”
At the rate USC continues to lose quarterbacks, the Trojans just might.
Bryce Young flips to Alabama
On the heels of a huge victory on the field, USC was dealt a critical blow in its recruiting efforts Sunday.
Santa Ana Mater Dei quarterback Bryce Young, who had been the centerpiece of USC’s 2020 recruiting class, spurned Helton and the Trojans for Nick Saban and Alabama after a weekend visit to Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Young was rumored to be wavering on his commitment since Slovis’ emergence made USC’s future at quarterback more crowded. But he hadn’t yet de-committed from the Trojans until Sunday, when he tweeted out a photo of himself wearing an Alabama jersey.
“I’d like to say a huge thank you to Coach [Clay] Helton, Coach [Graham] Harrell, Gavin [Morris], Coach [Keary] Colbert, the rest of the USC staff for the opportunity that they have given me,” Young wrote on Twitter. “I would also like to thank the USC fans and community for all the support. I will always have love for the University of Southern California, and wish for nothing but the best for its players, coaching staff, and fans.”
Losing Young is a devastating development for a recruiting class that otherwise lacks star power. Even with his commitment, USC’s recruiting class ranked a meager 43rd in the nation, according to 247 Sports. Without him, the Trojans have tumbled all the way to 62nd.
After leading Mater Dei to an Open Division state championship last fall, Young has thrown for 1,272 yards and 14 touchdowns through four games this season.