Let’s say Darnold sprains his ankle early in Game 2 against Stanford and misses the rest of the game but it’s not expected to be a serious injury. Does redshirt freshman Matt Fink (above) simply replace him? Does Helton burn Jack Sears’ redshirt year even though Sears might be inexperienced? And what about Jalen Greene?
If I were USC’s coach, Greene is my pick right now to be the backup. He has a strong arm, can run and knows the offense. But he did not practice at quarterback last week after spending time there during December bowl practices. It’s not known yet if he will play QB when USC resumes spring practices next week.
He would be perfect to fill in for a half if Darnold hurts his ankle, etc. But could he do it during the season without practice? Unlikely in Helton’s mind. So Fink is the short-term solution. Maybe. But remember USC is supposed to be a national-title contender. One bad result and it might be out of the College Football Playoff.
Would a coach who waited until the fourth game to start Darnold insert the highly regarded Sears into an early game? Not only would he end Sears’ redshirt season, he would gamble Sears is ready to perform. Bottom line: Darnold needs to stay healthy.