Sam Darnold, quarterback, USC
It will be the battle of top-end college quarterbacks in Southern California this upcoming season. A four-star recruit out of San Clemente, Darnold was named the Trojans’ starter three games into his red-shirt freshman season.
All he did was proceed to lead USC to eight consecutive wins, including a resounding Rose Bowl victory over Penn State. That last outing saw Darnold break the single-game Rose Bowl mark for passing touchdowns (five) and total yards (473).
At 6-foot-4 and 225, Darnold has the prototypical frame for an NFL quarterback. Surely, he’ll add a few pounds during the remainder of his college career as well.
What was so amazing about what Darnold did as a frosh last season is that he limited his interceptions to nine in 366 attempts. Considering USC’s offense is pro-style and requires the quarterback to go through more than one read, this is absolutely amazing for such a young signal caller.
There will be questions as to whether Darnold should enter the NFL after less than two full seasons as a starter in college. Some will say he should return for his junior season for more seasoning. That could very well be the right call. But how Darnold performs in 2017 will likely play the largest role in his decision-making process.
What we do know is that Mitch Trubisky was the second overall pick in this year’s draft after starting just a hair over two handfuls of games at North Carolina. We can also realistically draw the conclusion that Darnold was more impressive than the former Tar Heel at a younger age last season.