JT Daniels enters transfer portal: Can USC QB be the ‘next Joe Burrow’ at LSU?

JT Daniels, USC Trojans. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
JT Daniels, USC Trojans. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

USC Trojans quarterback JT Daniels announced he’s entering the transfer portal, leaving the starting job to Kedon Slovis.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise but USC quarterback JT Daniels has announced he’s entering the transfer portal. Daniels suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener that opened the door for freshman Kedon Slovis to get a chance at the job and he turned in a breakout season, resulting in being named Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American.

Slovis and Daniels were headed toward a spring competition for the starting job with Daniels recovered from the torn ACL and meniscus he suffered, but without spring practice due to the coronavirus pandemic, the opportunity to compete was lost.

Daniels’ father previously said his son was not planning on transferring and was looking forward to competing for the job. A lot has changed since then, including the NCAA potentially allowing for one-time transfers without having to sit out a year.

That pending decision, as well as spring practice getting canceled, makes the prospect of Daniels transferring more appealing. He’s keeping his options open, including a return to USC if he finds the market isn’t in love with the former No. 2 pro-style quarterback who was the No. 16 overall recruit in the Class of 2018.

The former Mater Dei star came to USC with a ton of hype and won the starting job as a freshman, but after the injury as a sophomore and a looming transfer decision, Daniels will be a Trojan with a unique legacy he leaves behind.

Daniels will wear the failures of the Clay Helton era to a degree because he was Helton’s guy and they just didn’t win enough.

JT Daniels transfer portal fallout: No one to blame

His entering the transfer portal will lead to many fans who used to support him now flipping on him for “running from competition” and for not “sticking it out with USC.” That’s not fair, however, and Daniels would be doing a personal disservice if he didn’t consider all his options.

Daniels literally didn’t get a chance to compete for the job this spring. Last time he competed for the job, he won it, in 2019 and in 2018. To suggest he’s afraid of competition is ridiculous and way off-base. What is the benefit for Daniels if he competes and Slovis wins the job? If he can start at 100 other programs in the country, why shouldn’t he compete for those jobs?

Transferring has a negative connotation, but it’s no different from any other regular person looking for a new or better job. And why is it okay for students to transfer for whatever reason but no one thinks they’re running away from something. It’s all about what’s best for that person at that time.

It’s not about what the fans want. Daniels doesn’t owe it to anyone to be a backup at USC. He gets no brownie points for that. It’s not going to help him play football and get a chance at playing in the NFL.

That comes with exploring his options, something the NCAA is making increasingly more player-positive, and the stigma or transferring, especially among quarterbacks, is pretty much normalized now. The NCAA will have a May 20 vote whether to allow transfers the freedom to move without sitting out.

Three of the four starting quarterbacks in last year’s College Football Playoff were transfers (Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, Justin Fields) and all three of those were at the Heisman ceremony that Burrow won. In fact, Burrow became the third transfer quarterback in a row to win the Heisman, following Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield. Auburn’s Cam Newton won the Heisman in 2010 after transferring from Florida and playing a year at Blinn College, a Texas JUCO.

Of the 19 former five-star quarterback recruits since 2010, 12 have transferred, including Blake Barnett, who transferred twice. Signing a five-star quarterback is a relative coin flip whether they finish out their career there.

This is the new normal and Daniels shouldn’t be judged negatively for choosing to enter the portal.

Now, as for where he could transfer, he’ll have no shortage of suitors among teams who think he can have a great second career like Burrow, Murray, Mayfield, Fields, Hurts and Newton.

Daniels had offers from marquee programs like Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, LSU, Miami and Wisconsin. Daniels also had offers from Pac-12 programs Arizona State, California, Colorado, Stanford, Washington and Washington State so maybe there’s a chance Daniels will get a chance to compete against USC.

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