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17 for '17: Jack Sears

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Our countdown of USC’s most intriguing players to watch in spring practice continues. Note: This is a list of guys who have the most to gain and are best positioned to do so.

For each player, we examine the depth chart, back story, outlook, key questions and how their role could swing in spring.

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5. JACK SEARS

Profile: 6-3, 195, freshman

Current pecking order: He’s the third-string quarterback, behind Sam Darnold and Matt Fink.

Background: USC was in on Sears for some time. After missing on their first few choices, the Trojans made him their top priority at the position. His ensuing commitment to Duke had them considering a handful of other prospects, none of which were ultimately offered. Credit USC for staying on Sears, who also had to be swayed by what was transpiring on the field. When Sears committed to the Blue Devils in the summer, it looked like Max Browne might start at USC for two years before passing the torch to Darnold. In the course of two months, Darnold, whom Sears backed up at San Clemente High, not only claimed the job from Browne but became a national sensation. Darnold is now widely projected as a top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, a scenario that would open the door for another competition. Sears, after committing to USC in mid-November, clearly didn’t get ahead of himself, as he led his team to CIF section and state titles.

Outlook: The early enrollee is going to take his lumps this spring. It’s only natural for such a young quarterback to struggle — in comparison, Darnold’s first practices weren’t until the fall of his freshman year. Through one week Sears has mostly been an observer during 11-on-11 periods. It makes sense when considering no one on the roster has more to learn right now. Outside expectations could seem unfairly high because he succeeded Darnold in high school and possesses a similar skill set. Sears has quickly established that he wants to be aggressive and has drawn praise from Coach Clay Helton for knowing where to go with the ball. Helton intimated there will be a fierce competition to backup Darnold, so I imagine Sears will get a lot more reps in the coming weeks. That would give us a clue as to how well he anticipates and processes information, two of the more important traits for a quarterback. There’s a strong possibility that he’s two plays away from taking the field this fall no matter how good he looks in practice.

Key questions: In which areas does he stand to improve the most? How close/far is he individually from being ready to play? What would it take for him not to redshirt?

Swing potential: Assuming Darnold is available all season, Sears could win the backup job or strictly lead the scout team this fall and redshirt.

Discuss on Trojan Talk

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17 FOR '17

No. 17: Andrew Vorhees

No. 16: Chris Hawkins

No. 15: Jamel Cook

No. 14: Vavae Malepeai

No. 13: Clayton Johnston

Bonus: Michael Brown

No. 12: Daniel Imatorbhebhe

No. 11: Josh Fatu

No. 10: Jordan Iosefa

No. 9: Deontay Burnett

No. 8: Marlon Tuipulotu

No. 7: Roy Hemsley & John Houston

No. 6: Chuma Edoga

No. 4: Matt Fink

No. 3: Michael Pittman

No. 2: Jack Jones

No. 1: Vaughns, Imatorbhebhe & Jones

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