Jaxson Dart is QB2 for USC.
The Utah native who saw his recruiting profile skyrocket during a record-setting senior season at Corner Canyon High last year was named the Trojans’ backup QB for the season opener, USC coach Clay Helton announced Thursday.
Dart beat out another true freshman, Miller Moss, for the backup job.
“Going into the San Jose State game we’ll have Kedon (Slovis) as the No. 1 quarterback. Jaxson as the No. 2 and Miller as the No. 3, with each trying to prep as hard as they can, in their mind to be a starter and prep like a starter,” Helton told reporters during a video press conference. “All the kids handled it extremely well, like pros, like I knew they would, and we’ll move forward.”
Helton said he would release the depth chart next week, ahead of USC’s opener against defending Mountain West Conference champion San Jose State on Sept. 4.
Both Dart and Moss, who prepped at Bishop Alemany High in Los Angeles, were four-star recruits who signed in the Trojans’ 2021 recruiting class and joined the program as early enrollees.
Slovis, a junior, has been USC’s starter the past two seasons, throwing for 5,423 yards with 47 TDs and 16 interceptions in his career while going 12-5 as a starter. He was named to the preseason All-Pac-12 first team and is a watch list candidate for several national college awards.
“You’re talking about three elite quarterbacks in that room. … I think three pro quarterbacks — guys that will develop and will develop fast,” Helton said.
“Where Jaxson (Dart) had a leg up a little bit was in live action. That’s how it was evaluated. When the ball was put down in scrimmage-type atmospheres or live action, that’s what I needed to see. And he was a little more productive in those situations than Miller (Moss).” — USC coach Clay Helton, on the Trojans’ backup QB competition
On what gave Dart the edge to become the backup, the coach later added, “Where Jaxson had a leg up a little bit was in live action. That’s how it was evaluated. When the ball was put down in scrimmage-type atmospheres or live action, that’s what I needed to see. And he was a little more productive in those situations than Miller.
“Obviously, both guys are elite, both guys will continue to compete. I’ve talked to both of them about it, Miller have a chip on your shoulder and continue to compete. Jaxson, compete like heck to hold onto the job.”
Dart was the 2020 Deseret News Mr. Football and earned Gatorade National Player of the Year honors after leading Corner Canyon to the 6A state football title last season while throwing for 4,691 yards and a state single-season record 67 touchdowns, to just four interceptions. Dart transferred to Corner Canyon his senior year after playing three years at Roy High.
Going into spring ball, Dart had an advantage over Moss in that he was able to play a fall season in Utah last year, while Moss and the state of California did not play a fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dart said the year at Corner Canyon helped him prepare for his freshman season with USC.
“I think it gave me a lot of confidence. In my senior year, I was able to go to Corner Canyon, where the offense was a lot more open and best suited my abilities. And I feel like there are so many similarities with the offense here,” Dart said earlier in fall camp, per USCFootball.com. “So I think that like everything kind of has played in my favor with just, you know, being a little bit more comfortable in this style of offense. And no, I was lucky for sure with Corner Canyon because I just had such a strong foundation and a great core of players, and bonds with kids. So I’m just gonna try to carry that over.”
Dart’s replacement at Corner Canyon, Devin Brown, is also a USC commit. Brown transferred from Arizona to the Chargers for his senior season and is rated a four-star prospect and the No. 8 QB prospect in the country in the 247 Sports composite rankings.