USC freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart returns to practice

Southern California quarterback Jaxson Dart passes against Washington State on Sept. 18.
USC quarterback Jaxson Dart passes against Washington State on Sept. 18 in Pullman, Wash.
(Young Kwak / Associated Press)

Just two weeks after undergoing surgery for an injured meniscus in his right knee, USC freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart returned to practice Tuesday, warming up and throwing passes in full pads and a helmet.

“Still week to week, still got to get doctor clearance,” said USC interim coach Donte Williams, “but you see right now he’s able to throw.”

A bulky brace on the freshman’s right knee still remained as a reminder of the injury he suffered in his unexpected debut last month at Washington State. But the fact that he was able to return to practice this quickly suggests he could be healthy and ready in the coming weeks — maybe even as soon as the Trojans’ trip to Notre Dame following the bye.


“It could be tomorrow. It could be next week, or it could be two, three weeks from now,” Williams said of the timeline for Dart’s return. “He’s an athletic guy with a big strong arm, so there’s a lot of things that have to be cleared for him to be able to come and play full speed.”

Dart was nowhere near full speed on Tuesday. In spite of being fully dressed, the freshman threw only a handful of passes, none of which involved dropping back or testing his knee in any way.

The injury was initially expected to keep him out for an extended period. But Dart told coaches upon receiving his prognosis that he was determined to return earlier than doctors predicted.

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“I think that’s just kind of the mentality he’s taken into the whole process,” offensive coordinator Graham Harrell said. “So to see him back this quickly, out there getting some throws is encouraging, and it’s a testament to him and his work ethic and how he’s attacked the situation.”

When Dart does return, it’s unclear if he’ll have the same shot to supplant starter Kedon Slovis that he would have had two weeks earlier, when he put together one of the most electric debuts in USC football history.


Slovis had his strongest showing of the season last week at Colorado, throwing for 276 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-14 victory. His 9.5 yards per attempt against the Buffaloes marked his most explosive passing output since the final stretch of his freshman season.

“Right now, I like what I see from Kedon,” Williams said. “The look in his eyes right here — the eyes never lie — and the look in his eyes right now are really good.”

Speaking of stunning recoveries …

USC defensive back Max Williams, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in April, was dressed in pads on Tuesday, marking a major point in what’s so far been a miraculously fast recovery.

“To be honest, [it’s] remarkable,” Williams said. “We have GPS numbers every day in practice, it’s crazy but his is always the highest. What the strength staff has done with him to get him already at least this far is remarkable. He’s out here, I want to say, they said one day at practice last week he ran 20.8 miles per hour. He wasn’t running 20.8 miles per hour before he got hurt, so that tells you where he’s going.”

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Fans planning to attend USC’s game Saturday against Utah — and any USC home game the rest of the season — will be required to show proof of full vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than 72 hours prior to kickoff. …

Williams revealed on Monday night’s broadcast of the Trojans Live radio show that his father, who had been suffering from dementia, died last week, two days after USC’s loss to Oregon State.

“I’m just fortunate that [USC chief of staff} Brandon [Sosna], [athletic director] Mike [Bohn], Clay [Helton] gave me the opportunity to come back home and be with him the last couple years of his life,” Williams said. “I’m really fortunate for the opportunity, but that happened last Monday. So you saw right now with the right people around from this team, this organization to my family, I was able to still push through it and you saw the result on Saturday.”