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Sunday, October 17, 2021

USC QB Caydon Slovis encouraged by new approach as Jackson returns to dart practice

LOS ANGELES — USC quarterback Caydon Slovis had perhaps his best performance of the season in Saturday’s win over Colorado. He had a season-high three touchdown passes, completed 65.5% percent of his efforts and did not throw an interception or take down for a sack.

But interim head coach Donnett Williams had a simple assessment for the junior quarterback’s latest game.

“Look into his eyes – eyes never lie,” Williams said after practice on Tuesday, “and the look in his eyes right now is really good.”

It’s been a little over two weeks since Williams challenged Slovis to prove that he was still worthy of the Trojans’ starting quarterback. After a breakout performance by backup Jackson Dart, when Slovis was ruled out with a neck injury against Washington State, Williams announced an open competition for the starting job.

The battle for the position was derailed by Dart’s meniscus surgery, but it still kept a spotlight on Slovis. The following weekend was a sloppy performance by all the Trojans against Oregon State, but Slovis walked away, encouraged by his mindset of entering the game.

“I think my approach has been quite different,” Slovis said. “I know we lost the Oregon State game, but I was very happy with my focus and where my mindset was going in the game. I felt confident, I felt like I was throwing the ball well. So then “It was kind of a focus for me personally, just to come in and let it rip.”

Slovis carried that momentum to USC’s trip to Colorado, where he broadcast the ball all season long, averaging 9.5 yards per effort and 14.5 per completion.

“The thing I was most proud of was getting us into the right plays and not doing any negative plays,” Slovis said.

The quarterback bout isn’t over. Dart returned to practice on Tuesday for the first time since his surgery. He was all over the pad, but extremely limited. He did not participate in most quarterback drills except at the receiver line. But he didn’t back down or step into his throws, mostly just extending his hand.

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By the end of practice, Dart removed the large brace from his right knee and replaced it with ice.

Offensive coordinator Graham Harrell said, “When he got the news about his knee he said, ‘I’m going back a lot faster than I think. “And I think he’s had the same mindset throughout the process.”

The dart is still considered week-to-week, with Williams not bowing his hand as to whether a return after next week’s bye might be in order. The dart still needs to be cleared to run and take full contact before playing in a game. When he returned, Williams said, it would still be a competition, a philosophy the interim coach has applied to the entire roster.

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