With USC starting quarterback JT Daniels in concussion protocol and backup Matt Fink out with three broken ribs, third-stringer Jack Sears will prepare as the starter for this week's game against Arizona State, coach Clay Helton announced Sunday evening.
Both injuries occurred in the Trojans' 41-28 loss at Utah on Saturday. Sears, a redshirt freshman who succeeded former USC star Sam Darnold in high school, competed with both Daniels and Fink in training camp before landing at third on the depth chart. He has not attempted a pass at the college level.
"I'm a big fan of Jack. I always have been," said Helton, adding he appreciated how both Fink and Sears remained engaged in preparing for games despite losing the competition to Daniels, a true freshman.
"If [Sears is] given the opportunities, I think he'll do a great job."
Helton did not estimate how long Daniels is expected to remain in the concussion protocol and implied he wouldn't need much practice to be prepared to play Saturday. Daniels was 6-of-16 for 89 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions before being sidelined against Utah, against whom the Trojans (4-3, 3-2 Pac-12) managed just 205 yards of offense.
If Sears has to play, USC's offense will be scaled back. Helton said Sears has not received a lot of reps and will receive a "significant" number early in the week to "catch him up."
"We're not going to try and reinvent the wheel," Helton said. "We're going to try and pick the plays that we think fit Arizona State's defense; plays that we know."
If Daniels is unavailable, redshirt sophomore walk-on Holden Thomas, who joined the program in 2016 after throwing for 3,107 yards as a senior at Brentwood (California) High the previous season, would be the next signal-caller up. The other quarterback on the roster is junior Brandon Perdue, a walk-on transfer from New Mexico Military Institute. In two years at the junior college level, Perdue attempted a total of 89 passes, and had just 19 as a senior at nearby Oaks Christian High in 2014.
Helton also allowed for the possibility that USC, should the situation require it, has options in place to "get through a game."
In seven games, Daniels has completed 56.9 percent of his passes and thrown for 1,629 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2017 and graduated with a year of high school eligibility remaining in order to enroll earlier at USC.