The first day of game week is under way for USC football, and head coach Steve Sarkisian has released both his depth chart and his play-calling responsibilities.Sarkisian handed off the reins of the offense to offensive coordinator Clay Helton.“I can still be involved with the play calling,” Sarkisian said in his weekly USC Athletics video. “Clay Helton has got such a good hold of our offense right now, that I’m confident he can do that.”Sarkisian also expressed that not being in charge of play-calling will free his time to work on other things with the team.“It frees me up to be with the defense more, work with special teams,” Sarkisian said. “And to be, in my opinion, more of a complete head coach.”Sarkisian surprised no one by naming Cody Kessler the starting quarterback and was full of only the highest praise for the redshirt senior.“One thing I appreciate about Cody is that he’s a gym rat, he’s a blue-collar guy,” Sarkisian said of the USC standout quarterback. “He’s never satisfied with where he is at.”Unlike many previous USC quarterbacks, Kessler was not a highly ranked recruit. Sarkisian attributes his work ethic and dedication as the factors that led him to where he is now.Behind Kessler at the helm of the offense is redshirt sophomore Max Browne. Freshman Sam Darnold is the third-string quarterback.Sophomore standout Adoree’ Jackson is the listed starter in three positions as well as being slotted second as a wide receiver. Jackson is the starting corner back, punt returner and kickoff returner.“The hard part with Adoree’ is you want to give him a lot, but you don’t want to give him too much,” Sarkisian said. “You’re maybe going to even see him in the backfield some.”“The reason we’re able to do all this with him is he’s got an extremely high football IQ and his work ethic is amazing,” Sarkisian said.The other wide receivers who will be working alongside Jackson are junior Darreus Rogers, redshirt sophomore Steven Mitchell Jr. and sophomore JuJu Smith-Schuster.Smith-Schuster will work with Jackson as a kickoff return man.Also on the offensive side of the ball is a very deep line that will start with senior Max Tuerk. Around him will be redshirt junior Zach Banner at right tackle and Toa Lobendahn or sophomore Viane Talamaivao at right guard. On the left side of the line, either redshirt junior Chad Wheeler or Lobendahn will start at left tackle. Sophomore Damien Mama will fill the left tackle position.The only freshmen slotted to be potential starters for the offense this season are tailbacks Dominic Davis and Ronald Jones II. They are listed in addition to redshirt senior Tre Madden. Junior Justin Davis is questionable due to injury.Stepping into the big shoes at defensive end that Leonard Williams left will be redshirt senior Greg Townsend Jr. Freshmen Rasheem Green and Christian Rector will also likely see playing time.Junior captain Su’a Cravens is listed as the starting outside linebacker. Fellow senior captain Antwaun Woods has been listed as the starting nose tackle.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold continues to rack up silverware after a breakout rookie season, this time being named first-team Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America on Monday.Darnold adds the accolade to his Rose Bowl offensive MVP, Archie Griffin Award and Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honor. He is the second USC signal-caller in history to be named to the team after Todd Marinovich in 1989.During a season that catapulted the 19-year-old into national relevance, Darnold racked up more than 3,000 passing yards to go with 31 touchdowns (and just 9 interceptions). His historic Rose Bowl performance was the cherry on top, as he threw for five scores and accounted for nearly 500 yards of offense. He didn’t throw a single incompletion as he led the fierce Trojan comeback in the fourth quarter.The FWAA also selected head coach Clay Helton as the First Year Co-Coach of the Year alongside Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuentes. Helton’s job security was under scrutiny after USC’s slow start to its 2016 campaign, but a nine-game winning streak to end the season (USC’s longest since 2008-09) put all doubts to rest.Achieving a famous Trojan trifecta for just the 13th time in the program’s history, Helton led his squad to wins over UCLA and Notre Dame this fall in addition to their Rose Bowl victory.Helton also coached his team to wins over both eventual Pac-12 finalists, Colorado and Washington — the latter of which was later selected to the College Football Playoff. In addition to his first-year coaching honors, Helton is a finalist for the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award, which will be handed out on Wednesday.