USC QB Darnold headlines Lindy’s All-America Teams Staff

August 25, 2017 at 3:28 pm.

Jan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws a pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the 103rd Rose Bowl at Rose Bowl. USC defeated Penn State 52-49 in the highest scoring game in Rose Bowl history. Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws a pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the 103rd Rose Bowl at Rose Bowl. USC defeated Penn State 52-49 in the highest scoring game in Rose Bowl history. Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

(Story written by Scott Wolf; All-America teams selected by Lindy’s) 

Quarterback Sam Darnold boarded a private jet in February to fly to Columbus, Ohio, to accept the Archie Griffin Award. He wore the scruffy black Vans shoes he donned many days at USC.

The college football world — including Lindy’s — has rolled out the red carpet for the hottest quarterback in the country, but Darnold resists the temptation to act like a celebrity at every turn.

“I don’t think I have to change,” Darnold said. “I think I can definitely just remain myself.”

Darnold is laid-back, calm and unlikely to go out of his way to say anything … unless he wants to tell a wide receiver where to break on a route. But it is Darnold’s demeanor that helps make him special.

He rarely gets flustered by a defense. He keeps a laser-like focus on his receivers. He does not panic.

“As mobile as he is, as heady as he is, keeping his eyes down the field the way that he can, that’s what makes him special,” said Jim Mora, coach of USC rival UCLA. “He can elude the rush, keep his eyes up and find receivers down the field.”

What Darnold cannot elude are massive expectations, including being Lindy’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year. He is also the consensus pick of oddsmakers to win the Heisman Trophy. He is widely considered the likely No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft, if he chooses to leave USC early.

So, yeah. No pressure.

“It’s cool,” Darnold said matter-offactly of all the offseason chatter. But it doesn’t matter until you play the season. I want to leave a legacy like (past USC great players). Hopefully I can be that role model for a kid out there who loves watching football.”

Unlike some of USC’s best-known players, most notably Heisman winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, Darnold did not immediately embrace the trappings of fame once he became a national name. However, those who know Darnold are not surprised.

While he attended San Clemente High School, he did not want to play for a sponsored 7-on-7 passing team that is a staple for many blue-chip recruits. He also tried to avoid Nike camps, where recruiting services analyze every pass. Darnold preferred to be with his San Clemente teammates. That made him an under-the-radar recruit heading toward his senior year of high school.

His dream school was USC. He wasted no time committing when the Trojans finally offered a scholarship the summer before his senior year.

Darnold redshirted his freshman year, and his “what-me-worry?” attitude served him well when USC coach Clay Helton named Max Browne the starting quarterback before the 2016 season.

“I didn’t agree with the decision, but I was going to help the team however I could,” Darnold said.

Three games into the season, Helton made Darnold the starter. USC was 1-2 at the time. After the Trojans lost a close game at Utah, Darnold led the way to a nine-game winning streak that set up this season of high expectations.

Darnold just wanted to play once he was the starter, no matter the score.

He threw five touchdown passes during an easy 48-14 victory over Arizona but was unhappy when Helton took him out of the game.

“Coach, there’s more out there,” Darnold said to Helton. “You saw the long balls in the first half. Guys were open and I missed them.”

Darnold’s season culminated with the Rose Bowl, a thrilling 52-49 victory over Penn State decided on a field goal on the final play of the game.

What does Darnold do for an encore? He quickly says he wants to win a national championship and does not care about his personal stats or glory.

When he made what looked like a risky pass to wide receiver Deontay Burnett that turned into a memorable 27yard touchdown with 1:27 left in the Rose Bowl, Darnold merely saw it as the best chance to win the game.

“Records, you know, that doesn’t mean much to me,” Darnold said. “I want to win a national championship.”

That desire to avoid some of last season’s missteps at USC saw Darnold exert more leadership during spring practice.

“He’s been a lot more vocal at what he likes and doesn’t like (with the receivers),” USC quarterbacks coach Tyson Helton said.

And USC’s young receiving corps knows it needs to learn the star quarterback’s tendencies or risk falling behind.

“He’ll do what you don’t expect him to do,” sophomore wide receiver Michael Pittman said. “That’s what makes him special. I’m getting better thinking the way Sam thinks. He’s definitely vocal. He’ll say, ‘Hey Pitt, break faster or run two steps instead of three.’

“He’s going to be the one shelling out the ball, and I’ve got to get the timing down with him.”

There is a certain sense of urgency because Darnold probably won’t be around after this season. I’s too soon to say what he will do, but it’s hard to imagine any quarterback being rated higher.

“He reminds me of a younger Tony Romo,” Mora said. “He is bigger, but has that type of ability. He’s smart and poised and confident. He’s a heck of a player.”


Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. School

QB Sam Darnold 6-4 225 So. USC

RB Saquon Barkley 5-11 225 Jr. Penn State

RB Derrius Guice 5-11 212 Jr. LSU

WR James Washington 6-0 205 Sr. Oklahoma State

WR Christian Kirk 5-11 200 Jr. Texas A&M

TE Troy Fumagalli 6-6 249 Sr. Wisconsin

C Frank Ragnow 6-5 319 Sr. Arkansas

OL Orlando Brown 6-8 360 Jr. Oklahoma

OL Quenton Nelson 6-5 329 Sr. Notre Dame

OL Cody O’Connell 6-9 370 Sr. Washington State

OL Connor Williams 6-6 320 Jr. Texas

K Daniel Carlson 6-4 223 Sr. Auburn

Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. School

QB Lamar Jackson 6-3 200 Jr. Louisville

RB Ronald Jones II 6-1 195 Jr. USC

RB Kamryn Pettway 6-0 235 Jr. Auburn

WR Calvin Ridley 6-1 190 Jr. Alabama

WR Equanimeous St. Brown 6-5 204 Jr. Notre Dame

TE Mike Gesicki 6-6 253 Sr. Penn State

C Mason Cole 6-5 305 Sr. Michigan

OL Will Hernandez 6-3 330 Sr. UTEP

OL Mitch Hyatt 6-5 295 Jr. Clemson

OL Mike McGlinchey 6-8 312 Sr. Notre Dame

OL Braden Smith  6-6 303 Sr. Auburn

K Gary Wunderlich 6-0 193 Sr. Ole Miss


Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. School

DL Harold Landry 6-3 250 Sr. Boston College

DL Tyquan Lewis 6-4 265 Sr. Ohio State

DL Ed Oliver 6-2 290 So. Houston

DL Christian Wilkins 6-4 310 Jr. Clemson

LB Travin Howard 6-1 213 Sr. TCU

LB Josey Jewell 6-2 236 Sr. Iowa

LB Arden Key 6-6 238 Jr. LSU

DB Jaire Alexander 5-11 192 Jr. Louisville

DB Minkah Fitzpatrick 6-1 201 Jr. Alabama

DB Derwin James 6-3 211 So. Florida State

DB Tarvarus McFadden 6-2 198 Jr. Florida State

P Mitch Wishnowsky 6-2 220 Jr. Utah

Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. School

DL Maurice Hurst 6-2 282 Sr. Michigan

DL Da’Ron Payne 6-2 319 Jr. Alabama

DL Derrick Nnadi 6-1 312 Sr. Florida State

DL Bradley Chubb 6-4 275 Sr. NC State

LB Micah Kiser 6-2 240 Sr. Virginia

LB Tegray Scales 6-0 230 Sr. Indiana

LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo 6-1 242 Sr. Oklahoma

DB Jordan Thomas 6-0 186 Sr. Oklahoma

DB Quin Blanding 6-2 215 Sr. Virginia

DB Godwin Igwebuike 6-0 205 Sr. Northwestern

DB D.J. Reed 5-9 188 Jr. Kansas State

P Michael Dickson 6-3 205 Jr. Texas