football

17 for '17: Matt Fink

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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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4. MATT FINK

Profile: 6-3, 195, redshirt freshman

Current pecking order: He’s the backup quarterback, behind Sam Darnold and ahead of Jack Sears.

Background: Sometimes which schools extend a scholarship offer and how many of them do so are much better indicators of one’s potential than how a prospect is ranked by the major recruiting services. I mention this because Fink is the lowest-rated quarterback USC has signed since Rivals began cataloging its rankings in 2002, and there’s no one particularly close. While this group is headlined by a fair share of five-stars, it also includes Rocky Hinds, Garrett Green and Jalen Greene. For what it’s worth, Fink had nearly as many offers as Hinds and Green combined and about five times as many as Greene. (Fink’s 14 offers were also three more than Darnold’s 11, but let’s not give ourselves a headache here.) The point is, a fair number of individuals who dedicate their lives to studying these things saw something special in Fink. It might also be wise to guard your expectations. Amid all the competition and controversy last year for the starting job, Fink quietly redshirted and led the scout team, enabling the young dual-threat quarterback to focus on himself and develop at his own pace.

Outlook: Perhaps the best thing that could have happened to Fink this offseason was Sears enrolling early. It’s good for Fink to have something on the line while in the background of Darnold’s supremacy. Fink is the heavy favorite to be his backup this season, with Sears likely to redshirt. But Sears’ presence alone forces Fink to practice with more purpose. He knows that if he can’t outplay Sears now, it’s doubtful he will once Darnold is gone. (There’s always the possibility USC would turn to Greene, who’s working exclusively at receiver, if Darnold were to go down this year.) Fink opened spring with maybe his best week of practice since arriving last January. He looked confident, comfortable and in control. Things, of course, will speed up in the coming weeks. It’ll be important for Fink to show not only the staff but his teammates that he can be more than the guy behind the guy.

Key questions: How much has he improved and where especially does he still need to grow? Will he come out of spring as the outright backup quarterback? Would he be prepared to start if need be?

Swing potential: He can be the undisputed backup or fall behind Sears.

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. 5: Jack Sears

No. 3: Michael Pittman

No. 2: Jack Jones

No. 1: Vaughns, Imatorbhebhe & Jones

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