This is not an anti-J.T.-Daniels story.
This IS, however, a pro-Kedon-Slovis story.
With much talk this offseason leading up to the start of spring practice, USC’s starting quarterback position has been one of the nation’s most polarizing position battles and looks poised to be so until September 5 when the Trojans open the season against Alabama. With some in the J.T. Daniels camp as he returns to form and others on the Kedon Slovis side, I am here to tell you Trojan fans that the fate of the program should lie squarely upon Slovis’ right arm.
It’s the right move. The right decision. And one that should make Trojan fans excited.
To kick things off, my evaluations usually begin with the good but we’ll do things a bit differently today. We’re going to start with the bad and transition into the good because that’s exactly what Slovis’ 2019 season looked like on paper.
While he did improve a great deal over the course of the season at many factors, a few things stuck out early on for Slovis. There were multiple missed receivers and forced throws in his first 25-30 throws. There were two specific plays in his first start against Stanford that Slovis missed wide-open receivers.
I've rewatched every Kedon Slovis throw from 2019 for @CChroniclesSBN. There were a few throws and decisions not to like early on.— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) March 11, 2020
These things got ironed out as the season went along but there were wide-open receivers missed for forced completions. pic.twitter.com/nhT5mj9wTb
There were also times during his second start that he misread coverages and forced throws into tight windows against BYU that ended in interceptions.
Then there was the BYU game -- only his 2nd start.— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) March 11, 2020
Here, the Cougars underneath coverage confused him early in the 1st quarter on two passes -- each ending in INTs. pic.twitter.com/uzsgAkW4LR
Those weren’t the only mistakes all season, obviously, those were just the glaring mistakes early on, over his first two starts, that all but essentially were removed as he improved during the year. Every quarterback is going to miss a few throws here and there. Every quarterback is going to misread a coverage defender. It’s limiting those mistakes and subsequently the ability to elevate the players around you with your throws that makes a quarterback great.
And those are just the kind of throws that Slovis made in his freshman season at USC.
Among the best of his throws from a season ago, Slovis was a tremendous out-breaking route thrower. His arm strength allowed him to pinpoint throws from the far hash to the opposite sideline with ease. He was able to target out-breaking throws directly on the money and in stride as those throws came in bunches.
Slovis is among the best out-breaking throwers in the entire country, and he relied upon them heavily in the Air Raid attack. His game film is littered with successful out-breakers whether they be quick outs, deep outs or simply a comeback towards the sidelines, his prowess on out-breaking routes was nothing short of spectacular, especially when you consider how reliant the Trojans offensive attack is upon those kinds of throws.
You expect a quarterback to be good when throwing to all levels of the field and in every direction. The middle of the field is often the most difficult direction of the field to throw to and, as such, when a quarterback can consistently hit throws over defenders in between the hashes, he’ll turn some heads.
Then fast forward to Slovis' return game against Notre Dame and this artfully-crafted dime to Amon-Ra St. Brown that splits coverage and drops in over the DB with exact preciseness. pic.twitter.com/BSw4NRQeIg— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) March 11, 2020
Slovis did just that seemingly all season. In his return game against Notre Dame, above, he hit WR Amon-Ra St. Brown on this beautiful, safety-splitting pass that he dropped just over the turned defender. The best thing is: that wasn’t his only throw like that.
Kedon Slovis wasn't done with his over-the-middle preciseness either -- as he followed it up against Arizona with this beauty. pic.twitter.com/b5vQuljFk0— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) March 11, 2020
He returned the very next week against Arizona and lasered in this dart to Drake London, putting it in a spot where only London could make the play and a big gain.
Slovis had multiple throws over the middle in every game that turned heads and certainly catches your eye. This isn’t saying he can’t throw outside the numbers because he’s documented that he can do such a thing on the aforementioned out-breaking passes.
Arm strength, accuracy and trust
Every quarterback has to have a good enough arm to make all the throws. But like in any other area that strength is required, you have to have technique and accuracy to coincide with strength in order to be successful. Slovis has great arm strength, elite accuracy, terrific mechanics and the underappreciated trust in his arm.
There were times that trust got him in trouble early on in 2019 but the trust he placed in his arm and his receivers, knowing he can make throws that some quarterbacks may not even attempt, saw him yield more positive results than negative results a season ago.
The first, and likely best example of Slovis’ trust in his arm came in his first start against Stanford. There, he looked off the safety and hit a streaking St. Brown down the field, splitting the coverage defenders and dropping a perfectly lofted pass only where St. Brown could make the play for a 39-yard touchdown.
Mobility + pocket presence
Look, Slovis isn’t going to win any races or even make the attempt to beat you with his legs. What he will do, though, is make your unblocked defenders look silly with a little shimmy or jab step. Just ask Cal.
Slovis also has underrated shiftiness. pic.twitter.com/DpofMQQ5FZ— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) March 11, 2020
Not only did he routinely make unblocked defenders miss, he also did an incredible job of building his pocket for his age. Slovis would feel pressure off his tackles and step up into his pocket to create more time or, just the same, feel interior pressure and roll around his tackles while keeping his eyes downfield for an open receiver. Multiple times during the 2019 season, Slovis’ eye placement downfield on a scramble drill made for big plays, specifically with his earl-season scramble-drill rapport with Erik Krommenhoek.
Excited for 2020 and beyond
There are a multitude of reasons to be excited for the 2020 season and beyond as a USC fan and there are a multitude of things to watch during the 2020 spring camp as well. One of those things to watch will definitely be the quarterback discussion between Slovis and Daniels. However, let me tell you, that because of Slovis’ proven ability in the Air Raid offense, an insanely talented group of receivers, his ability to snatch yards up on out-breaking throws, a proven tenaciousness to hit routes over the middle of the field and his overall feel for the game that includes a great pocket presence and mobility, Slovis should win the job and there shouldn’t be a discussion.
Slovis should be the discussion. Not only as the starting quarterback at USC but as a Heisman Trophy hopeful for 2020 and even 2021.
Don’t believe me? Just ask the growing number of defensive backs he clowned with his arm.