Top opponents for Texas in 2017, No. 2: USC QB Sam Darnold

Posted August 31st, 2017


The countdown to kickoff is on. Over the 100 days before Texas takes on Maryland, we’re counting down the 100 best players the Longhorns will face in 2017. This series is all about impressing your friends at pregame tailgates and watch parties, so grab a notepad and buckle up.

Who is he?

Sam Darnold is this year’s college football coverboy. The USC quarterback has hit the perfect sweet spot of being most analysts’ top NFL prospect while leading a supernova program on its quest to make the College Football Playoff. Add in the fact that he plays in Los Angeles, and you get a litany of longform profiles from respected writers like Jeff Pearlman, Lee Jenkins and Molly Knight. The glowing TV segments have already begun to follow.

By the time Texas plays USC, you’ll feel like you know more about Darnold than you know about some members of your own family. And here’s where things get tricky. Unlike other college football megastars, Darnold hasn’t even started a full college season yet. Remember, he started 2016 as the No. 2 quarterback on the Trojans’ depth chart behind Max Browne, then led a marauding revenge tour that ended in the most thrilling Rose Bowl since … well, you know.


How do you separate Darnold the legend from Darnold the redshirt sophomore?

What should the Longhorns watch for?

His talent is undeniable, and so are the stats. In 10 starts and three backup performances, Darnold threw for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions, completed 67.2 percent of his passes and ran for 250 yards and two scores.

Even more impressive than his mechanics is his ability to improvise. Watch his highlights below, and you’ll see numerous instances were Darnold made something incredible out of a less-than-ideal situation. Two prime examples come back-to-back starting at the 3-minute, 15-second mark. The former basketball star is adept at escaping pressure while keeping his eyes downfield, then firing a pinpoint pass from seemingly awkward body positions.

So … he’s perfect?

Not quite. Darnold’s confidence can have its consequences. Because he’s so good at throwing on the run, you’ll rarely see him throw one out of bounds. Sometimes he’ll even hurl a pass into double or triple coverage.

A good example of this came against Washington, when he threw two interceptions and made some other dangerous throws. However, he still carved the Huskies up for 287 yards and two scores in one of the biggest wins of the college football season.

Catch up on the series

No. 100: Joel Lanning

No. 99: Tony Nicholson

No. 98: Da’Leon Ward

No. 97: Taylor Martin

No. 96: Kyler Murray

No. 95: Davion Hall

No. 94: Mike Warren

No. 93: Al-Rasheed Benton

No. 92: Carter Stanley

No. 91: Chris Bradley

No. 90: Justin Holmes

No. 89: Alex Barnes

No. 88: Daniel Wise

No. 87: Jesse Aniebonam

No. 86: Cole Walterscheid

No. 85: Shane Cockerille

No. 84: Martell Pettaway

No. 83: David Long

No. 82: Niko Small

No. 81: Cameron Batson

No. 80: Mike Lee

No. 79: Marcelias Sutton

No. 78: Carlos Strickland

No. 77: Anu Solomon

No. 76: Deshaunte Jones

No. 75: Byron Pringle

No. 74: LaQuvionte Gonzalez

No. 73: Zach Sinor

No. 72: Derrick Willies

No. 71: David Montgomery

No. 70: Dylan Cantrell

No. 69: Matt Boermeester

No. 68: Nick Orr

No. 67: Zach Smith

No. 66: Chad Whitener

No. 65: D.J. Moore

No. 64: Jermaine Carter Jr.

No. 63: Ty Summers

No. 62: Jacob Park

No. 61: Daylon Charlot

No. 60: Brendan Moore

No. 59: Brian Peavy

No. 58: Chris Hawkins

No. 57: Ty Johnson

No. 56: Dravon Askew-Henry

No. 55: Michael Pittman Jr.

No. 54: Hakeem Adeniji

No. 53: K.J. Smith

No. 52: JaMycal Hasty

No. 51: Steven Sims Jr.

No. 50: Taylor Young

No. 49: Joseph Noteboom

No. 48: Kenny Hill

No. 47: Jeff Badet

No. 46: Tre Flowers

No. 45: Kennedy McKoy

No. 44: Bobby Evans

No. 43: Austin Seibert

No. 42: Patrick Lawrence

No. 41: Winston Dimel

No. 40: Terence Williams

No. 39: Will Geary

No. 38: Kyzir White

No. 37: Tyron Johnson

No. 36: Nic Shimonek

No. 35: Taj Williams

No. 34: Keke Coutee

No. 33: Reggie Walker

No. 32: Rodney Anderson

No. 31: Jesse Ertz

No. 30: D.J. Reed

No. 29: Andre Chachere

No. 28: Kyle Hicks

No. 27: Marcell Ateman

No. 26: Jake Campos

No. 25: Travin Howard

No. 24: Kamari Cotton-Moya

No. 23: KaVontae Turpin

No. 22: Zach Crabtree

No. 21: Chuma Edoga

No. 20: Will Grier

No. 19: Daniel Imatorbhebhe

No. 18: Jordan Thomas

No. 17: Dorance Armstrong Jr.

No. 16: Justice Hill

No. 15: Porter Gustin

No. 14: Dalton Risner

No. 13: Justin Crawford

No. 12: Deontay Burnett

No. 11: Ronald Jones II

No. 10: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

No. 9: Mark Andrews

No. 8: Allen Lazard

No. 7: Iman Marshall

No. 6: Orlando Brown

No. 5: Cameron Smith

No. 4: Mason Rudolph

No. 3: James Washington

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