USC QB Jaxson Dart’s status for Notre Dame still up in air
Adam Grosbard (OC Register) — LOS ANGELES — USC quarterback Jaxson Dart showed signs of progress at Tuesday’s practice as he works to return from meniscus surgery, but his status for Saturday’s rivalry game against Notre Dame still remains undetermined.
Dart is still day-to-day with his knee injury, interim head coach Donte Williams said after practice, putting the chances of the backup quarterback’s return after the bye week in doubt. But Dart did show signs of improvement in Tuesday’s practice. It was the first time he participated in 11-on-11 drills, handling all the second-team duties against the scout team rather than third-string QB Miller Moss.
Dart was able to move around more, making throws on the move and navigating cone drills with the rest of the position group. While he’s still not fully planting his leg during his throws, nor playing at full speed, he was making strong, tight passes that led his receivers.
“I feel a lot better moving around this week than I did last week,” Dart said. “Today was probably one of the first days I really felt comfortable with mostly all the throws I had to make.”
Every day, the team doctors tell Dart what he can and cannot do at the coming practice. He says that as much as he wanted to rush back to playing, he understands that a little patience will go a long way toward his long-term health.
If he is ready to play Notre Dame, it will remain to be seen whether Dart is used or how he’s used. His breakout performance against Washington State raised the question of whether he should start over junior Kedon Slovis, but Dart had surgery the following week.
Offensive coordinator Graham Harrell didn’t rule out the possibility of using both quarterbacks, an idea USC intended to deploy against Washington State before Slovis’ neck injury knocked him from the game.
“Kedon has been really sharp. The ball is jumping out of his hand. He’s doing a lot of good things,” Harrell said. “It’ll be nice when we have them both back and figure out how to use them both. … We’ll put whoever out there that gives us the best chance to move the ball at that point and use our guys as best we can.”
For now, Dart is just waiting on that full clearance from the doctors. Playing 11-on-11 on Tuesday was a good first step. Dart admitted to feeling a need to catch up, but was also confident that the mental reps he took while recovering from the surgery have helped him avoid any serious regressions.
And when he does return to the field, whether it’s later this year or next, Dart learned a valuable lesson about protecting his body and the differences between the college and high school games.
“Probably should slide a little more next time,” he said dryly. “It’s not like high school anymore, I can’t just run through a lot of people. Everybody’s big and a lot of them are bigger than me now. So I gotta be a little bit smarter when I’m running.”
TE Michael Trigg was not at practice on Tuesday as he continues to recover from a lower leg injury suffered prior to the bye week. Williams said he doesn’t expect Trigg to play against the Irish on Saturday.