USC quarterback Sam Darnold doesn't play favorites




CARSON >> USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin remembered that Sam Darnold needed to be quick.

As Darnold directed the scout team in practices last year, he rarely had the option of being selective about where he delivered the ball or being particular about whom he threw to.

“You’re trying to get the ball to the first guy before you get your head knocked off, right?” Martin said. “So you don’t have these favorites.”

Observers can point to several of Darnold’s defining qualities since he orchestrated USC’s midseason revival and eight-game winning streak. The redshirt freshman quarterback is relatively mistake-free. While he has thrown 26 touchdowns, he has seen only eight passes intercepted. And he averaged 8.4 yards per pass attempt, ranking among the top passers in the country in the category, an indication of the number of big plays created.

But he has also been effective at spreading the ball to a wide range of targets and getting plenty of his receivers involved. As a result, this season, the Trojans have been less reliant on top wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster.

According to SportSource Analytics data collected by SB Nation’s Football Study Hall, Smith-Schuster was targeted 31 percent of the time last season, almost one-third of quarterback Cody Kessler’s pass attempts.

The workload has been scaled back this season.

Darnold, along with Max Browne, targeted Smith-Schuster 24 percent of the time in the regular season.

Part of that drop stems from occasional…

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