USC Athletics honors the best of fall and spring 2016 seasons along with 2015-16 and 2016-17 winter sports.
Rose Bowl champion Trojans playing seven games at L.A. Coliseum, open Sept. 2.
The USC junior has emerged as a key leader on the 2016 Trojans.
The Trojans recorded 629 yards of total offense
QB Sam Darnold threw for 235 yards and five touchdowns in win over the WIldcats
2017: The poised-beyond-his-years Darnold, known for his quick release, accuracy and mobility, enters his second season as USC’s starting quarterback as a leading Heisman Trophy contender as just a sophomore in 2017 after earning national accolades in his 2016 rookie showing.2016: Darnold proved to be among the top quarterbacks in the nation as just a redshirt freshman in 2016. His insertion into the starting lineup in the fourth game of 2016 gave the USC offense a spark as the Trojans won the final 9 games of the season. Overall in 2016 while appearing in all 13 games and starting the last 10, he completed 246-of-366 passes (67.2%) for 3,086 yards with 31 TDs and 9 interceptions, plus 62 carries for 250 yards (4.0 avg) with 2 TDs and 3 tackles.
He won the 2016 Archie Griffin Award from the Touchdown Club of Columbus (given to the nation’s season-long most valuable player after the bowls) and was among 10 finalists for the 2016 Manning Award and 18 semifinalists for the O’Brien Award, both awarded to the nation’s top quarterback. He was the 2016 Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year, made Football Writers Freshman All-American first team and Campus Insiders Freshman All-American second team and was All-Pac-12 honorable mention. He made the 2016 AP All-Bowl Team first team and ESPN Pac-12 All-Bowl Team first team. He won USC’s 2016 Most Inspirational Player Award and Bob Chandler Award (underclassman with outstanding athletic ability, academic achievement and character).
He is the only USC quarterback in history to have back-to-back 5 passing TD games (Arizona and California in 2016). He threw multiple TD passes in 9 straight games, the most by a Trojan since Matt Leinart’s 15 in 2003-04. He was ninth nationally in passing efficiency (161.1, second in Pac-12), 10th in completion percentage (.672, second in Pac-12) and 13th in passing TDs (31, fourth in Pac-12). He was second in the nation in ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating (86.8), behind only Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. In his 10 starts, he threw 29 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions. Among freshmen quarterbacks, he was first nationally in passing efficiency (161.1), completion percentage (.672), TD passes (31) and yards per attempt (8.4). His 31 TDs in 2016 is a USC freshman season record. His 250 rushing yards in 2016 are the most in a season by a USC quarterback since Reggie Perry’s 254 in 1991. He already is 15th on USC’s career passing list with 246 completions (he also is tied for 10th on Troy’s season passing chart with those 246 completions). His 3,336 yards of total offense in 2016 is eighth on USC’s season list and 20th on USC’s career list.
Playing off the bench against Alabama, he was 4-of-8 for 29 yards and he ran for 9 yards on 3 carries. Against Utah State, he was 5-of-7 for 62 yards with 2 TDs off the bench. At Stanford, he saw late action and was 5-of-7 for 45 yards and an interception. At Utah, he made his first start (just the sixth redshirt freshman to start at quarterback for USC) and hit 18-of-26 passes for 253 yards and he also ran for 41 yards on 9 carries (with an 8-yard TD), the most rushing yards in a game by a USC quarterback since Matt Leinart’s 46 in 2004 against Colorado State. He completed 69.7% of his passes (23-of-33) for 352 yards and 3 TDs (all career highs) while starting against Arizona State (he also ran for 8 yards on 3 tries, with a 3-yard TD run) to earn Manning Award Star of the Week honors. Against Colorado, he threw for a career-best 358 yards with 3 TDs on 25-of-37 passing to become the first USC freshman to have back-to-back 300-yard passing games since Todd Marinovich in 1989 did so versus Notre Dame and Stanford (he earned O’Brien Award Great 8 honors), but he also had an interception and lost 2 fumbles (he ran for 22 yards on 8 carries). He threw a USC freshman record 5 TDs at Arizona on 20-of-32 passing and he added 54 yards on 6 carries (the most rushing yards in a game by a USC quarterback since Carson Palmer’s 60 against Kansas State in 2001) while playing just the first 3 quarters to earn Rose Bowl Game Pac-12 Player of the Week, O’Brien Award Great 8 and Scout.com Pac-12 Player of the Week honors. For a USC record second consecutive game, he threw 5 touchdowns (also tying his USC freshman game record) as he completed 72.0% of his passes (18-0f-25) for 231 yards against California, but he threw an interception and lost 2 fumbles (and he had 5 rushes for 12 yards). Against Oregon, he hit 70.0% of his passes (28-of-40, both career highs) for 309 yards with 2 TDs but he threw an interception (he also ran for 23 yards on 5 carries). At Washington, he completed 69.7% of his passes (23-of-33) for 287 yards with 2 TDs and 2 interceptions, and also ran for 15 yards on 4 carries to earn Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, Rose Bowl Game Pac-12 Player of the Week and O’Brien Award Great 8 honors. He completed 25-of-36 passes for 267 yards and 2 TDs (with 2 interceptions) and ran for 27 yards on 9 carries at UCLA. He was 19-of-29 passing for 205 yards and 2 TDs (52 and 2 yards) with no picks against Notre Dame and he also ran for 16 yards on 3 tries. He turned in a legendary performance when he was named the Rose Bowl Offensive Player of the Game against Penn State as he set Rose Bowl records with 5 passing TDs and 473 total yards of offense; he was 33-of-53 passing for 453 yards overall in the game (all were career highs and second most ever in a Rose Bowl), including 10-of-10 for 135 yards in the fourth quarter as he engineered 2 long touchdowns drives in the final 9 minutes to tie the score.
2015: Darnold redshirted in 2015 as the No. 3 quarterback as a first-year freshman. He was USC’s Offensive Service Team Player of the Year.
HIGH SCHOOL: He made the 2014 Prep Star All-American Dream Team, Max Preps All-State Division II first team, Cal-Hi Sports All-State second team, Orange County Register Fab 15 second team, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, All-CIF Southwest Division Offensive MVP and Orange County Register All-Orange County Offensive Player of the Year as a senior quarterback at San Clemente (Calif.) High as he completed 213-of-314 passes (67.8%) for 2,996 yards with 39 TDs and 8 interceptions and he ran for 785 yards on 125 carries (6.3 avg) with 13 TDs. He set school season records for passing yards, passing TDs, completions and total yards (3,770) in 2014. He twice threw a school-record 5 TDs in a game in 2014. San Clemente advanced to the 2014 CIF Southwest Division championship game (he threw for 204 yards and ran for 181 yards in the game).
He completed 29-of-46 passes (63.0%) for 337 yards with 4 TDs and ran for 322 yards on 35 carries (9.2 avg) with 5 TDs as a 2013 junior before he broke his foot in the third game of the season and was sidelined for the final 8 games.
As a 2012 sophomore, he hit 40-of-60 passes (66.7%) for 411 yards and 3 TDs and ran for 143 yards on 37 carries (3.9 avg) with a TD, plus he caught 9 passes for 153 yards (17.0 avg) with 1 TD and he made 27 tackles (with 2 sacks), an interception and 3 deflections. He went 15-3 as a starter in his 3-year career.
He also played basketball at San Clemente, earning All-League MVP honors as a 2013 sophomore and 2015 senior (he averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds as a senior when he also was All-CIF Division IAA second team and Orange County Register All-Orange County fourth team). He missed most of his 2014 junior season recovering from his broken foot suffered in the football season and then he broke a finger. He also played baseball at San Clemente. He was the Orange County Register Boys Athlete of the Year and the Orange County Athletic Directors Association Orange County Male Athlete of the Year for 2014-15. Current Trojans Jake Russell and Jack Sears also prepped at San Clemente.
PERSONAL: He is a communication major at USC with a B average (3.14 GPA). His father, Mike, played football (guard) at Redlands and his mother, Chris, played volleyball at Long Beach City College. His sister, Franki, played volleyball at Rhode Island (2012-15). His late grandfather, Dick Hammer, played basketball at USC (lettering in 1952 and on the Trojans’ 1954 NCAA Final Four team) and was a member of the USA’s 1964 Olympic volleyball team, then appeared in films, television (including in “Emergency!”) and commercials (including as the Marlboro Man) and also was a captain in the L.A. County Fire Department. His grandmother, Betty Hammer, played volleyball (including training with the U.S. National Team) and softball. His great grandmother, Juanita, was a noted tennis player in Southern California. His uncle, Dan Hammer, played volleyball at Long Beach State (1980-81). His cousin, Allie Hammer, played volleyball at Irvine Valley College (2009-10) and American (2010-11), his cousin, Michele Hammer, played volleyball at Chapman (2012-15) and his cousin, A.J. Hammer, is a senior on Concordia’s volleyball team.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT SAM DARNOLD
Colin Cowherd, FOX: "I think he is the best quarterback I've ever seen at USC."
Kyle Bonagura, ESPN.com: “Darnold is a star, plain and simple…Darnold’s poise and ability to create plays when they break down are incredible for any player, but even more so for a freshman…He has the ability to extend plays with his feet, both to buy time to pick out a receiver and to take off and run. He plays more on instinct because he’s had less time in the program and because he’s simply wired that way.”
David Lombardi, ESPN.com: “Darnold may well be the best quarterback in the Pac-12; the Trojans have much to be excited about entering 2017… He has a big arm, he’s elusive and he hasn’t made many mistakes so far.”
William Quimby, FanSided: "Darnold is a cool customer, who was 10-for-10 in the fourth quarter alone (in the Rose Bowl). Let the hype begin because he is a skilled, poised, tenacious competitor who will not disappoint as his reputation grows."
Rich Hammond, Orange County Register: “Darnold’s on-field decisions suggest intelligence but also a level of instinct that can’t be taught.”
Washington co-offensive coordinator Jimmy Lake: “I really believe this young quarterback is going to be a star in this conference.”
UCLA head coach Jim Mora: “I watched him on film obviously, I’ve seen him on TV, had a lot of respect for him coming into this (UCLA) game, but when you see him in person he’s a truly special one. I’ll tell you, he reminds me of a younger Tony Romo. He’s bigger, but that type of ability and he’s smart and he’s poised and confident.”
USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin: “Sam, he has that quiet confidence and very stern, direct leadership quality that a lot of guys have who win a lot of games.”
Former USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster: “If you’ve ever seen Aaron Rodgers throw the ball, it’s a fastball. It just goes there. That’s what it (Darnold’s throw) is.”
USC safety Chris Hawkins: “When he’s playing like this, I don’t think there are too many teams in the country that really want to see us.”
Former USC wide receiver Darreus Rogers: “The kid has grown up fast, on and off the field. He has become a natural leader and his instincts on the field are amazing. What more can you ask for?”
Former USC Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and current NFL star Carson Palmer: “He’s a great young quarterback...He’s a gamer. When you watch him play, there’s so many plays that break down, and all of a sudden he fires a ball to a crossing route or finds a way to get out of a sack and keeps his eyes downfield to throw the touchdown pass. He’s just a natural gamer, and guys like that only get better with repetition. Obviously, he’s new on the scene and doesn’t have a ton of experience, but for him to come on the scene that quickly and have the success he’s had, I’m really excited to see the future he is going to have."
GAME-BY-GAME WITH SAM DARNOLD