USC Football

Daniels says USC won't be playing safe in 2019

July 30, 2019
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JT Daniels had one of the most impressive prep careers of any QB we’ve seen in southern California. In fact,  statiscally he’s the best ever for an Orange County QB and like Matt Barkley did in 2007,, earned CA Gatorade Player of the Year California a year ago.

Daniels threw 52 touchdown passes as a junior in 2017 and threw for a record-setting 67 touchdowns in 2016. Although most were prepared for him to finish off his high-school career with another CA State Championship Title run in 2018, he chose to reclassify and enroll at USC last Summer.

USC has lost two-year starter Sam Darnold to the NFL Draft and the timing was perfect for Daniels to start his career aa a Trojan. And Daniels earned the starting gig over Matt Fink and Jack Sears and led the Trojans to victory in his first collegiate start versus UNLV.

While there were some impressive performances from Daniels, the deck was stacked against him with poor offensive line performances, a complicated scheme that was tabbed the “Gumbo Offense”, a center with chronic snapping issues and the expected growing pains most true-freshmen experience.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for why the Trojans struggled mightily in 2018, but it was downright painful to watch how inept the USC offense often looked last season.

Graham Harrell was hired as offensive coordinator after Kilff Kingsbury bailed for the NFL 30 days after being hired by the Trojans. Kingsbury may not have had tremendous success as a head coach, but his offenses were always prolific.

Harrell learned the style of offense he runs from the same dude who taught Kingsbury, Mike Leach. He may be young and have only a few years as an offensive coordinator, but Harrell’s impact at USC was felt immediately.

Now USC has a QB in Daniels, who’s proven he can throw for ridiculous amount of yards, preparing to run an offense tabbed the “Air Raid.” 

USC Scoop spoke to Daniels after USC’s final player run practice of the summer.

Scott Schrader & JT Daniels Q&A:

SS: So Graham Harrell comes in...first day that you met him...what happens(ed)?

JT Daniels: He kind of just took charge.  He's got a really good energy about him...I think everybody really noticed that at the beginning.  You know he came in preaching selfless, toughness, and discipline as the team core values.  And I think the guys have bought into it.  There was a good connection with and the team right from the start and the guys have really embraced the philosophy and love it.

SS: What is the Air-Raid?

JT Daniels: It's a philosophy as Coach Graham has said, and I love the way he puts it.  We're just going to go out and execute.  We're not focused to out-scheme you.   We're not going to come in and try to play a game of chess with you, we're just going to try and run our plays over and over and over again and out-execute you and tire you out and beat you.

SS: So the guys have talked about how simple the offense is(you've mentioned that) and some of the freshmen have said they've been able to understand the offense in three weeks---why is it so simple for guys coming in?

JT Daniels: Because there's not that much to it.  I think what really helps is the rules of the offense itself.  We can run the same play from a bunch of different formations because guys know the positions at what the rules is on that play no matter where they are on the field.  It's not like there's a 50-page packet for day 1...2...3...4...day 5 and you add 20 plays a week.  It just goes back to the philosophy--we're gonna run what we run because we really love those plays, and we're going to run them over and over again.

SS: Will you have the ability to audible?

JT Daniels: Sure.  If I really like something I can take it.  But most plays pretty much have an option built in for just about anything.  Of course if I see the quick route I can take it...but a lot of it is dialed up pretty well.  

SS: Are/should we anticipate seeing a lot of short passes...getting the ball out quickly?

JT Daniels: We definitely have a quick game element?  I think we focus on the quick game...it's an extension of the run game.  I think it's something we excel at because we have good timing...quarterbacks and receivers with the quick routes.  And we have a bunch of receivers that can break tackles.  

SS: You came in last year as a freshman.  Any freshman is going to have a learning curve of some sort.  Confidence level heading into fall camp for you since you really hadn't had a chance to spend much time here...

JT Daniels: Yeah...I didn't know what to expect.  I was just trying to take it day by day and the longer you get into the season the harder it is to do that.  This year though I think I've done a really good job of setting myself up for success.

SS: Last year you guys went halves without scoring points.   Why won't that happen this year?

JT Daniels: I think we really focused on taking each play one at a time.  The halves you'd be referring to would be the 2nd half of games where we're playing from the lead and PLAYING SCARED BECAUSE WE DON'T WANT TO LOSE.  THIS YEAR WE DON'T CARE IF WE SCORE 70.  IF WE'RE EXECUTING WE'LL JUST TAKE IT PLAY BY PLAY.  IF WE HAVE A GREAT PLAY WE'LL CELEBRATE IT LATER.  WE'RE GOING TO GET BACK UP TO THE LINE AND CALL ANOTHER PLAY.

SS: Was it difficult to make adjustments in the 2nd half?

JT Daniels: It wasn't like we got out-schemed or anything.  Defenses don't come out and run a whole new thing...they didn't last year at least.  Halves we went scoreless in the 2nd half I can think of Arizona, and situations like that...it wasn't like the defense out-schemed our coaches, it was more like..."oh thank God we have a lead...and we started playing from ahead and once you get that mindset it gets really dangerous, and we're working really hard to change that mindset.

USC’s 2019 Fall Camp begins on Friday August 2 at 4pm.

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Daniels says USC won't be playing safe in 2019

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