Kedon Slovis ready to shake off an inconsistent soph year.
After losing confidence in his arm due to injury, Slovis feels ready to take the next step as a junior.
Adam Grosbard (OC Register) — LOS ANGELES — To most observers, Kedon Slovis didn’t appear to be himself last season. The sophomore quarterback was good enough to lead the Trojans to a 5-1 record and a Pac-12 South Division title while logging several stunning comeback wins.
But after a freshman season in which the former three-star recruit established himself as one of the premier quarterbacks in the country, there was something missing in 2020. The football was wobbling out of his hand, and he was missing receivers on routine routes.
“I never had an issue with accuracy my whole life, or throwing velocity,” Slovis said Tuesday at Pac-12 media day, “and all of a sudden last year I’m looking at it like, ‘What’s going on with my arm?’”
During the offseason, Slovis went back to video to evaluate what had happened to his arm. But the answer actually stems from his final play of the 2019 season.
Slovis’ last act as a freshman was to leave the Holiday Bowl loss to Iowa early following an elbow injury. He avoided anything that required surgery or an extended off period and was ready to participate in the following spring practice before it was shut down by the pandemic.
But despite being cleared by the medical staff, Slovis still didn’t totally trust his arm by the time the 2020 season arrived.
“I never got that confidence back of wanting to use that or was really conservative about using it,” Slovis explained. “At times I was compensating for not wanting to use it or put strain or stress on the elbow. So I think that caused a lot of the issues that you guys saw.”
It wasn’t until the second half of this year’s spring practices that Slovis began to feel like himself again.
“At some point, you have to say, ‘This is what happened. You’re cleared now, you’re good.’ You kind of have to rip that band-aid off. That’s what it took for me mentally,” Slovis said. “I don’t want to be ‘Freshman Year Kedon’ in terms of where my arm’s at. I want to be better than that. … I feel like I’m in a really good place now.”
He likes what USC’s new strength staff, led by Robert Stiner, is doing. He described the workouts as “functionally based” and reported that rather than feeling stiff after a session he’s loose and mobile. That helps when he goes out to the practice field and works on throwing routes with the receiving corps.
Slovis is making moves off the field, too. Last week, he announced that he had signed with Klutch Sports Group to represent him in name, image and likeness matters.
The USC quarterback played it slow when student-athletes were allowed to make money off of NIL beginning July 1. Rather than rush into deals, he met with multiple agencies to see which fit him best.
Klutch appealed to him because they want to take a similar approach, focusing on building his brand. Slovis declined to say which brands they are negotiating with but added that he doesn’t expect to do much on that front before the fall.
“To (Klutch), less is more,” Slovis said. “My main priority is always to be the quarterback at USC. And I won’t let that become a distraction.”
The current task at hand is trying to erase the bad taste from last year’s season-ending loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game.
The Trojans were selected in the preseason media poll to win the Pac-12 South again this season but to lose in a rematch to Oregon in the title game in Las Vegas.
Slovis said the goal of the offseason has been to build a culture capable of giving USC its first conference title in four years. For his part, that starts with creating a more consistent offense behind his rediscovered confidence in his arm.
“Not having one week where we (run the offense) exceptionally and one week where we drop off. The next form of the offense is just doing it day-in, day-out,” he said. “And it starts with me as a quarterback.”