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USC Quarterback Jack Sears Enters the Transfer Portal

After a quarterback battle that had a surprise at backup, Jack Sears is looking to depart USC in search of playing time.

NCAA Football: Southern California Spring Game Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Many USC fans preferred Jack Sears to JT Daniels last year. Especially after drubbings by Stanford and Texas in which USC was largely unable to move the ball, fans looked down the depth chart for hope at the quarterback position. That hope manifested at Arizona State, after JT Daniels had been in concussion protocol and backup Matt Fink broke his ribs on this play.

Against Arizona State, Sears completed 20 passes on 28 attempts, bettering JT Daniels in season passing efficiency, touchdowns per game, and passer rating. The offense put 28 on the scoreboard, but ultimately fell short, losing 38-35.

Despite Sears performance, Daniels was given back the reigns to the offense the next week. Context matters here. Sears played in a game in which offensive coordinator Tee Martin was seemingly coaching for his job. The Trojans ran the only trick play of the season, having Tyler Vaughns throw downfield on this play.

And then there was this flea flicker:

By my count, these were the only two trick plays that USC ran last season. Sears had the advantage of having an offensive coordinator doing everything he could to gain yardage. This level of trickery isn’t possible on a sustained level. Furthermore, stats don’t account for Sears’ mental errors, such as this backwards pass with a defender in his face.

And when Graham Harrell came into town, Sears still couldn’t outplay other Trojan backups. Early enrollee Kedon Slovis, an unheralded recruit from Arizona, took Sears’ spot as the backup. Graham Harrell had glowing praise for Slovis: “I think talent-wise, he’s as good as I’ve ever seen...Kedon can make some throws that other people can’t make, so that’s why he is a special talent.”

Sears’ playing style may have impacted Harrell’s decision to elevate Slovis as the backup. Sears is the most athletic of the Trojan quarterbacks, and tends to run when he sees nothing there. However, this does not jibe with Harrell’s air raid system. Harrell’s last quarterback, Mason Fine, ran for 118 yards in 2016, but only 17 and 20 for the next two years. Harrell prefers his quarterbacks to make reads rather than tucking and running, commenting that Sears had missed some reads because of his proclivity to run.

So earlier today, Sears announced his decision to transfer, noting that he would come back if given playing time.

If Sears does transfer, he will have to sit out a year and then he will have two more years of eligibility.