USC football interim coach Donte Williams mum on status of QB Jaxson Dart (knee) as Kedon Slovis ...

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- The quarterback competition at Southern California might be over before it even started.

Jaxson Dart did not practice Tuesday after the freshman sustained a knee injury in the Trojans' 45-14 win at Washington State, while three-year starter Kedon Slovis took first-team reps after being knocked out of the game because of a neck injury.

Interim coach Donte Williams would not discuss the status of Dart, who came off the bench to throw for 391 yards and four touchdowns. That included whether Dart needed an MRI or other tests.

"Shoot, I hope he's here tomorrow, so we'll see. I know he just wasn't here today," Williams said.

Williams had indicated there would be an open competition following Dart's debut, in which he rallied USC to victory in its first game since Clay Helton was fired as coach. Dart was named the Pac-12 offensive player and freshman of the week after going 30-of-46 passing (although he was intercepted twice) and rushing for a team-high 32 yards.

Williams said Dart would need to practice this week in order to have a chance to start for USC (2-1, 1-1 Pac-12) against Oregon State on Saturday.

"Then if he's not able to practice the whole week, the decision's made," Williams said.

Slovis, a junior, was hurt on the opening drive against the Cougars and did not return.

Dart was injured in the second quarter but remained in the game. The Kaysville, Utah, native played the second half with a heavy sleeve on his right knee and had a noticeable limp at times.

The strong showing from Dart raised the possibility that Slovis could be benched for the first time because of poor play. He has started all but one game since taking over when J.T. Daniels sustained a knee injury in the 2019 season opener, missing the game at Washington that year after sustaining a concussion.

The offense was sluggish in USC's first two games this season, managing 23 points in a win over San José State before being thumped in a 42-28 loss to Stanford that marked the final game of Helton's roller-coaster tenure. Slovis directed two late touchdown drives against the Cardinal after the outcome was decided.

Slovis has thrown for 487 yards and three touchdowns with one interception, completing 65% of his passes in three games this season, but he has struggled to connect with receivers other than standout junior Drake London. London, too, was hurt against Washington State, sustaining an apparent head injury. He attended practice but did not participate Tuesday.

Slovis' uneven play, combined with Dart's impressive showing off the bench, had fans wondering whether Williams might stick with the youngster for his first home game in charge against the Beavers (2-1).

Slovis downplayed the notion of a potential change while praising what Dart did in relief.

"I'm not really focused so much on that," Slovis said. "I'm excited for him, he had a great game, and honestly that's what we expect. He's a great player, great quarterback. He showed that all fall camp, and I'm excited for him and what he's done for our team."

As for how he will approach the rest of this week, "Just trying to get myself ready to play for Saturday as best I can and trying to help my teammates as much as possible," Slovis said.

With Dart out, that left Slovis and freshman Miller Moss as the only scholarship quarterbacks available to practice.

But Williams, who has proved to be more elusive than his predecessor Helton when it comes to disclosing injuries, was vague on how USC would handle the position.

"It's something we have to figure out," Williams said. "Maybe we'll play wildcat, so we'll just take it day by day."