USC quarterback Jaxson Dart passes against Washington State on Saturday. (Young Kwak / Associated Press)
During a debut last Saturday so dynamic it nearly upended USC’s immediate plans under center, freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart played through a torn meniscus in his knee, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
Dart, who hadn’t appeared at practice since the injury, had minor surgery to repair the meniscus in his knee earlier this week. He’ll miss Saturday’s game against Oregon State and is expected to be out for an extended period, leaving incumbent Kedon Slovis atop the depth chart for the foreseeable future.
Slovis’ neck injury thrust Dart into action against Washington State last Saturday. After a helmet-to-helmet collision sidelined the Trojans’ two-time all-conference quarterback during the game’s first drive, Dart took over and proceeded to put together one of the most extraordinary debuts by a USC quarterback in program history, throwing for 391 yards and four touchdowns.
He did so while hobbling to the huddle throughout the second half. Dart appeared to hurt his right knee late in the second quarter after being hit low on a run-pass option play in which he chose to keep the ball. He wore a brace on his knee after halftime, as USC rolled to 45 unanswered points in the victory.
Dart said after the game that he would be fine, while interim USC coach Donte Williams said he never considered taking Dart out of the game.
“Jaxson? No, Jaxson told me he was good,” Williams said. “That’s all I know, Jaxson’s good.”
But the freshman wasn’t in attendance at USC’s practices on Tuesday or Wednesday. When asked about Dart’s status after Tuesday’s practice, Williams said that Dart was “dealing with a couple things.”
He expressed hope then that the freshman would practice on Wednesday. When he didn’t, Williams said on Thursday that USC’s starting quarterback wouldn’t be revealed until Saturday, when USC takes the field against Oregon State.
Now, Dart appears to face a longer timeline in returning to USC’s offense.
How long Dart will be out remains to be seen, but his absence means Slovis will retain his job by default.
Over two seasons under center, Slovis has twice been named the All-Pac-12 first team quarterback. But Dart’s electric performance against Washington State called into question whether Slovis offered USC’s offense its highest possible ceiling at the position.
Those questions are moot for the time being, with Dart out. But until he returns, it’s Slovis who will have the shot to regain his foothold in the USC huddle.
“He already has command of the offense, and a lot of guys in this locker room including myself believe in him,” Williams said. “He’s won a lot of football games here and he’s played and saw a lot of different defenses.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.