When JT Daniels entered the NCAA transfer portal last month, the former five-star quarterback left the door open for a return to USC if immediate eligibility weren't possible elsewhere.
But even after the NCAA tabled a possible one-time transfer exception last week, Daniels still made his exit from USC official.
Daniels announced Thursday he will transfer from USC to Georgia after two seasons with the Trojans. With no transfer exception available, the former Gatorade National High School Player of the Year must presumably apply for a traditional transfer waiver if he has any hope of playing for the Bulldogs next season.
His transfer marks the end of an up-and-down tenure at USC, where he enrolled in the spring of 2018 after skipping his final season at Santa Ana Mater Dei High. Even before his arrival, the five-star local recruit was lauded as a savior for a struggling football program. But after winning the starting job as a freshman, Daniels piloted an inconsistent USC offense to a 5-7 record. He threw for 2,672 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
Daniels won the job again as a sophomore, beating out impressive incoming freshman Kedon Slovis. Under new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, Daniels appeared primed for a breakout season until just before halftime of the Trojans' season opener, when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The injury ended his season, and eventually his tenure in Los Angeles.
Slovis, who stepped in and proceeded to shatter the program's freshman records on his way to Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year honors, was widely expected to retain his starting job as a sophomore, leaving Daniels as the odd man out.
Still, in December, a person close to the quarterback told The Times that Daniels planned to return and compete for the job. In April, people close to USC suggested they were "optimistic" that Daniels would return, if the NCAA balked on adding a one-time transfer exception.
The expectation was that Daniels would graduate from USC after this season, only to leave with immediate eligibility to play elsewhere in 2021.
But Thursday the quarterback who once tattooed the Coliseum on his right calf officially cut ties with the program, accepting the reality of sitting out a season over remaining a backup at USC.
At Georgia, however, Daniels could find himself in a similar situation. He joins a quarterback room that already includes a high-profile grad transfer from Wake Forest in Jamie Newman, who has elicited considerable hype. With Newman expected to start in 2020, Daniels might have chosen to simply wait out a season before competing for the job in 2021.
Even then, a starting role isn't assured. Georgia currently boasts a commitment from the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2021 class in Brock Vandagriff.
USC won't have nearly the same luxury of depth at quarterback. With Daniels transferring, redshirt senior Matt Fink is the only other scholarship signal caller on the Trojans' roster. Mo Hasan, a transfer from Vanderbilt, will add depth but is not yet officially on scholarship.