A look back, and a look ahead – Orange County Register

Sam Darnold didn’t look like a future star USC quarterback after his sophomore year at San Clemente High.

Mater Dei’s JT Daniels, a sophomore in 2016, looks very much like a future star USC quarterback.

Daniels on Sunday committed to USC, where last season Darnold had a terrific redshirt freshman year. Darnold is on every 2017 Heisman Trophy candidate list you can find.

How different were Daniels and Darnold as they entered their junior years of high school football?

Very different.

Darnold had played only a few games at quarterback his sophomore season, 2012, at San Clemente. He was mostly a receiver and linebacker. When San Clemente starting quarterback Sean Donnelly was out with an injury, Darnold stepped in at quarterback and completed 40 of 60 passes for 411 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.

San Clemente quarterback Sam Darnold leaps over a Dana Hills player to score a touchdown during the 2014 season. (File photo: Foster Snell for the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)

Daniels’ sophomore season of 2016 was a record-setting one. He established Orange County single-season records with 4,849 passing yards and 67 touchdown passes. Daniels was the Register’s Orange County offensive player of the year.

Whereas Darnold became a top recruit via his pre-senior year summer performances and a fabulous senior year in which he was O.C. offensive player of the year, Daniels was on every college’s recruiting chart after a spectacular freshman season in which he threw for 3,042 yards and 33 touchdowns.

Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels fires a pass in the third quarter against Edison in Costa Mesa on Friday, September 23, 2016. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Daniels likely will be in the thick of the competition for the USC starting quarterback position in 2019, which will be Daniels’ true-freshman football season. That would be Darnold’s senior year. Darnold probably will be the starting quarterback for the New York Jets in ’19.


Sort of in the middle of all of this is Jack Sears.

Sears replaced Darnold as San Clemente’s starting quarterback and had a very good junior season in 2015 and was an All-Orange County first-team quarterback as a senior in ’16. Now Sears is at USC, where he hopes to replace Darnold just like he did at San Clemente.

With Daniels coming to the Trojans’ quarterback depth chart, it might be expected that it will be a Darnold-to-Daniels passing of the position’s baton.

San Clemente’s…

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