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COLUMN: USC's high-profile QB gamble leaves Trojans where they want to be

Four-star QB Jaxson Dart was the big addition for USC on Early Signing Day on Wednesday.
Four-star QB Jaxson Dart was the big addition for USC on Early Signing Day on Wednesday. (Ryan Young/TrojanSports.com)

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Before even getting to the news of the day, let's just take a second to put in perspective exactly what USC did with its 2021 quarterback recruiting approach ...

It's uncommon for any college football program to land two top-10 national quarterbacks in the same class, so the Trojans were sitting in a very, very good -- actually, enviable -- position throughout this fall with 4-star Jake Garcia (No. 5 pro-style QB, No. 42 national prospect) and fellow 4-star Miller Moss (No. 7 pro-style QB, No. 107 national prospect) both committed.

A major recruiting win was in hand if the Trojans could simply get those two to signing day.

But all the while, the coaching and recruiting staffs couldn't help but notice (and keep noticing) what a 3-star QB named Jaxson Dart was doing for Corner Canyon HS in Draper, Utah, this fall.

It helped that Utah was one of the only states on the west coast playing high school football. It also helped that Dart's team played a nationally-televised game on ESPN in late August. And, of course, that every game he played involved eye-popping stats.

So to paint the timeline, he was officially on the radar early this fall, the Trojans' ramped up their recruitment around October ... and at some point along his way of setting Utah single-season state records with 67 touchdown passes (plus 12 more rushing) and 5,867 total offensive yards, well before he got the 4-star bump and vaulted in the rankings to the No. 5 dual-threat QB and No. 105 national prospect, the USC staff decided it was all-in on the shaggy-haired, perpetually-poised star in the making. No matter what.

Surely, the staff knew that making it clear Dart was now a priority target would jeopardize the situation the Trojans already had set up. Sending that message to Dart would invariably reverberate an entirely different message to another quarterback. Again, it's simply hard to keep any high-profile QB prospect happy if he's not the focal point of a recruiting class these days, let alone one of three.

Moss, for his part, was not going to waiver, but it only seemed a matter of time before Garcia reconsidered the situation -- which he did in formally decommitting on Dec. 3. Garcia made it clear in his comments afterward that the Dart recruitment was the instigating factor in his decision.

So, in summation, one can only reasonably conclude that the Trojans had made peace with the likelihood -- and ultimate reality -- of driving off a top-50 national prospect at the most important position on the field, because their evaluation and belief in Dart was that strong and resolute.

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