The USC Trojans spring football season is set to wrap up on Saturday, April 14, with the program’s annual spring game.
The primary storyline heading into the offseason for the Trojans has been the quarterback battle between Matt Fink and Jack Sears. Both are vying to replace Sam Darnold as the new starting signal caller for USC.
Both gunslingers have shown progress in the final week of practice, according to the Los Angeles Times, so the spring game Saturday will be a good litmus test for the coaching staff and fans.
“We want to come out and show that we are learning, that we are improving,” Sears said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “And that we can run this offense.”
“We had some shaky practices,” Fink added. “But it was a confidence builder not only for us, but for the whole offense, I think, to finally put on tape what we could do.”
The defending Pac-12 champions are looking to reload and make a run at another conference title and possibly a College Football Playoff berth in 2018. Saturday gives USC fans their first glimpse at how those endeavors are progressing.
USC spring game time
The USC spring game kicks off at 12:30 p.m. PT Saturday, April 14.
How to watch the USC spring game
The USC spring game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network. Viewers can also stream the game on the Pac-12 Now app with a cable subscription.
USC spring game rosters
USC’s spring roster can be found on its official website.
Reviewing the USC Trojans
- 2017 record: 11-3, 8-1 Pac-12
- Key returners: WR Tyler Vaughns, QB Matt Fink, WR Michael Pittman, RB Stephen Carr, LB Cameron Smith, CB Iman Marshall, LB Porter Gustin
- Key losses: QB Sam Darnold, RB Ronald Jones II, WR Deontay Burnett, LB Uchenna Nwosu, DT Rasheem Green
Coach: Clay Helton
21-6 heading into his third full season
USC has undoubtedly corrected course in the three years under Helton, who replaced Steve Sarkisian on a full-time basis in 2015.
The Trojans announced in early February that Helton’s contract was extended through 2023.
“We have lofty goals at USC and Clay can get us to those goals,” athletic director Lynn Swann said in a statement at the time. “He has shown that he can lead our team with integrity and stability and that he has the ability to win conference and national championships. I am happy with the job Clay has done so far. He has made good progress and is moving our program forward.”
Helton’s 21 wins are the most for a coach in his first two full years at USC and the Trojans haven’t lost at home under his guidance.
Key camp storylines
- Who will replace QB Sam Darnold? The battle to replace Darnold behind center will likely come down to Matt Fink and J.T. Daniels. Daniels, who reclassified into the 2018 class, doesn’t arrive until the summer. A 5-star recruit rated the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the 2018 class, Daniels comes in with plenty of hype. However, with his arrival still to come, the job could be Fink’s to lose. Fink was Darnold’s primary backup last season. He threw 9 passes last year, completing 6 for 43 yards. Jack Sears is also in the mix, but expect this to be a two-way race between Fink and Daniels.
- What about replacing RB Ronald Jones II? The prime candidate is running back Stephen Carr. He was the second-leading rusher for Southern Cal behind Jones last season, totaling 363 yards on 65 carries. However, Carr is out for the spring with a back injury. From 247Sports: “USC will be without dynamic freshman RB Stephen Carr for at least the spring as the former 5-star recruit is battling a herniated disc, USCFootball.com has learned.” No timetable has been given but indications are that he will be back for fall camp. The Fontana, Calif., native was the favorite to take over as the No. 1 RB in the Trojans backfield with Jones declaring early for the NFL draft. Carr should make a full recovery, but a strong spring from Vavae Malepeai could earn the reserve tailback more touches.
- Can USC’s defense improve? The Trojans defense ranked just 66th nationally in yards per play last season. While USC’s uptempo offense is part of that reason — its defense is on the field much of the time — the Trojans could take value from an improved defensive effort. There are some holes to fill, most notably those of linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, defensive tackle Rasheem Green and safety Chris Hawkins. But the Trojans hope to get full, healthy seasons from edge rushers Porter Gustin and Christian Rector. And with a number of talented linebackers coming in to provide depth, expect linebacker Cameron Smith to take a more prominent leadership role in what could be an amazing positional group.