Sophomore quarterback JT Daniels looks to throw in last season’s finale against Notre Dame. (Tal Volk/Daily Trojan) “We were very surprised with Kedon coming out of the spring, very impressed,” Helton said. “We went through this camp and another 15 practices to see if it wasn’t just spring. He did it again.” Fink returns for his fourth season at USC after nearly leaving the program. He entered the transfer portal in April after it was reported that he was discouraged with his starting prospects following a meeting with Helton. After a 2018 season in which Daniels led the Trojans to a paltry 5-7 record, Helton made it clear that the starting job was not simply handed to the young quarterback. Daniels’ first year behind center was inconsistent but showcased his raw talent. As a freshman, he threw for 2,672 yards and 14 touchdowns in 11 games while offering occasional flashes of brilliance. Daniels returns to the starting job as one of USC’s most scrutinized players. After being named the 2017 Gatorade National Player of the Year as a junior at perennial power Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Daniels left high school a year early and was named the Trojans’ starting signal-caller a week before the team’s 2018 season opener. This year, the sophomore got the nod from Helton marginally earlier, just two weeks before USC’s first game. According to Helton and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, Daniels put forth the most consistent performance throughout fall camp. Sears is returning for his third year as a Trojan. He started one game last season after Daniels and Fink were sidelined with a concussion and broken ribs, respectively. “We came into the process and said it’s not going to be about age or who’s been on the field,” Helton said. “It’s going to be about how people play and how people compete on a day-to-day basis and execute the offense and how they do it consistently. JT did that.” Sophomore quarterback JT Daniels will be USC football’s starting quarterback Saturday against Fresno State, head coach Clay Helton announced Aug. 20. The decision, long awaited but not unexpected, came after months of competition. After facing many critics as the battle for the starting job carried on for weeks, reporters asked Daniels whether or not he felt he finally had an opportunity to prove his detractors wrong. “Having Kedon in there everyday, having Fink play great [and] having Sears play great definitely pushes you to make sure you’re on yourself,” Daniels said. “I’ve made a big emphasis on pocket movement and just pocket mobility in general,” Daniels said. “I’d definitely say that was a big focus. Just moving through progressions faster [and] a big emphasis on taking no sacks.” Slovis was an unheralded three-star recruit out of Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Ariz. The freshman enrolled early at USC last semester to participate in spring practices. Since arriving, Slovis’s ability to make tough throws has made a lasting impression on the coaching staff. “Kedon’s a special talent. Talent-wise, he’s as good as I’ve ever seen,” Harrell said. “Kedon can make some throws that other people can’t make.” USC’s quarterback competition began in the spring and extended over 30 practices. The coaching staff remained committed to a democratic process throughout fall camp. All four quarterbacks received an equal amount of reps at practice and split time between the first- and second-team offenses. Fink’s father told the Los Angeles Times in May that his son would be transferring to the University of Illinois. Fink quickly shut down his father’s claim and announced in June that he would remain with the Trojans. Daniels is a prototypical pocket passer with the ability to put touch on the ball and fit it into tight windows. Still, the young quarterback is not resting on his laurels. Over the course of seven games played in relief of either Sam Darnold or Daniels, Fink completed 72% of his passes and rushed for 106 yards. The veteran is accurate on short to intermediate routes and possesses underrated athleticism. Sears performed admirably in the only start of his career, completing 20 of 28 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns in a narrow loss to Arizona State. According to Daniels, the competition brought out the best in himself and the rest of the team. While many fans speculated that Daniels would ultimately earn the starting job, the announcement of freshman Kedon Slovis as his backup was unexpected. Redshirt junior Matt Fink and redshirt sophomore Jack Sears round out the rest of the depth chart behind Slovis at three and four. “I’m not excited to go out there to prove them wrong,” Daniels said. “I’m just excited to play football.” Daniels and the Trojans will get the opportunity to do just that when they kick off against Fresno State Saturday at 7:30 p.m.