Freshman QB Jaxson Dart appears a lot closer to returning to the field based on interim head coach Donte Williams’ comments from his Thursday morning press conference. Williams was asked if he saw any limitations out of Dart this week of practice, his most practice participation since his knee injury.
“I don’t know if he’s ever really limited. I mean, he has a brace on, that’s about all I can say. I don’t really know what that brace does as far as a limitation. He looks fine to me,” said interim head coach Donte Williams. “He looks ready to go.”
In a follow up, Williams was asked if Dart is more fully available this weekend compared to the Notre Dame game.
“Yeah, I believe he is fully prepared. Just last week he only had one full day of practice,” said Williams. “He was only cleared for emergency use.”
Dart has made progress over the last three weeks since his surgery, upping his practice participation from light throwing to full participation in 11v11 periods, which he did this week. During Notre Dame week, he took another step forward with actual team reps, including some second-team participation. He was not ruled out for the game and even warmed up with the team before the game, but he was ultimately sidelined.
Saturday could be the first game appearance since his eye-opening debut against Washington State.
Dart was electric in his debut performance against the Cougars, finishing with 30 completions out of 46 attempts for 391 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions after he entered the game following a neck injury sustained by starting quarterback Kedon Slovis on the Trojans’ opening offensive possession.
Dart played with a gunslinger’s mentality, as offensive coordinator Graham Harrell put it. The true freshman broke the record for most passing yards by a USC quarterback in a debut. He reached that milestone prior to the end of the game, notching 308 yards by the third quarter. Dart was named the 247Sports True Freshman of the Week.
The quarterback appeared to be injured, however, on the final drive of the first half when Washington State’s Jaylen Watson dove at his knees on a read-option run. Dart finished the drive, connecting with Gary Bryant Jr. on a fourth-and-9 for a momentum-shifting 38-yard touchdown pass. Dart returned with a brace on his right knee after the halftime break and wore it for the remainder of the game, occasionally showing a slight limp. USCFootball.com’s Keely Eure broke the news earlier this month that Dart underwent meniscus surgery.
Dart, who picked up a USC scholarship offer in the middle of his senior season, led Draper (Utah) Corner Canyon to a 14-0 record throwing for 4,691 passing yards, a 69.6 completion percentage mark and 67 passing touchdowns to just four interceptions. He also ran for 1,195 yards and 14 more scores. He was named the 2020 MaxPreps Utah High School Football Player of the Year and the Gatorade National Player of the Year. Dart committed to the Trojans over Arizona State, BYU and UCLA in December’s early signing period.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Dart saw a massive rise in his rankings following his historic senior season. He finished as the No. 69 overall prospect and the No. 10 quarterback, according to the 247Sports Composite.