Ryan Kartje (LA Times) — Jaxson Dart, the young quarterback previously believed to be USC’s heir apparent under center, has entered the NCAA transfer portal, a person familiar with the decision but not authorized to discuss it publicly told The Times, likely clearing the way for the most coveted transfer quarterback in college football to join the Trojans.
The decision comes after a campaign in which Dart burst onto the scene as a freshman, establishing enough of a foothold as USC’s quarterback of the future to convince Kedon Slovis, the Trojans’ three-year starter, to transfer to Pittsburgh. But Dart’s place in that future would be obscured just a few weeks later by the arrival of new coach Lincoln Riley, whose departure from Oklahoma led Caleb Williams, the No. 2 quarterback prospect in the 2021 class, to announce he, too, planned to transfer.
Williams was in Los Angeles on Sunday, attending both a Rams game and a Lakers game courtesy of USC. The next day, Dart was in the transfer portal.
A possible return to USC is still on the table for Dart, a person familiar with the decision told The Times. Dart, the person said, loves USC and had no issue with competing for the starting job. But the likely presence of Williams, whose transfer choice is presumably contingent on securing a starting role, makes a return for Dart improbable.
Instead, Dart is likely to become the latest USC heir apparent displaced by another quarterback.
Slovis was the first to ascend unexpectedly into that role, when JT Daniels, a former five-star quarterback prospect from Santa Ana Mater Dei, tore a ligament in his knee in the 2019 season opener. Daniels later transferred to Georgia, and Slovis held the job for two full seasons, before an injury against Washington State earlier this season opened the door for Dart.
Dart proceeded to kick that door down with the most dynamic debut for a quarterback in USC history, as the freshman stepped in to throw for 391 yards and four touchdowns in a road win at Washington State. Dart tore his meniscus in the process, requiring surgery that would keep him out until late October.
When he returned, Dart found himself in a two-quarterback rotation with Slovis, both of whom struggled to find a rhythm in the new arrangement. The freshman never quite recaptured the magic from his debut, finishing with 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns to five interceptions over six games.
But with Slovis on his way to Pittsburgh, Dart was the clear choice to take the reins at quarterback. That is, until Williams announced he was entering the transfer portal. Ever since, rumors have swirled about the potential of the top quarterback following his former coach to join the Trojans.
Nothing was official on that front as of Monday afternoon. But it seemed only a matter of time before Williams would step into Dart’s place as USC’s quarterback of the future.
Dart’s exit leaves Miller Moss as the only scholarship quarterback currently remaining on USC’s roster.
He wasn’t the only top Trojan freshman to declare his intent to transfer on Monday. Standout tight end Michael Trigg announced on social media that he also entered the portal, leaving the Trojans without one of their most exciting offensive weapons from last season’s roster.
Dart and Trigg both appeared to be foundational parts of USC’s offensive plans last season. But a little more than a month after Riley’s arrival, those plans appear to have changed. On Monday, they became the 12th and 13th players from the 2021 roster to enter the transfer portal.