DALLAS — Sam Darnold’s college career could end where it started, at AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas.
On Labor Day weekend last year, Darnold, then a talented yet inexperienced backup quarterback, entered for Max Browne early in the third quarter of USC’s thumping by top-ranked Alabama.
It was the first time he had stepped onto the field for the Trojans, and his debut commenced an ascendance. Over 15 months, Darnold replaced Browne as the starter, sparked consecutive 10-win seasons, including USC’s first conference championship in nearly a decade, and blossomed as one of the premier passers in the nation.
Darnold, considered among the most talented quarterbacks in USC football history, could be playing in his final game in cardinal and gold Friday against Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. The redshirt sophomore, whose future has been subject to ongoing speculation throughout most of this year, is eligible to enter the 2018 NFL Draft and forego his final two seasons of eligibility.
Is this week his swan song?
Darnold has offered few hints publicly about a draft decision that will have significant impact on the program’s immediate future.
Following USC’s regular-season finale, a victory over rival UCLA in the Coliseum, students serenaded him with chants of, “One more year! One more year!”
A reporter’s question about the cheer drew a laugh after the game.
“I’m not going to say anything about that,” Darnold said, grinning.
Throughout bowl practices, he deflected more questions.
His future was topic of conversation during a news conference soon after USC arrived Saturday in Dallas for its week-long Cotton Bowl preparation: Will he or won’t he go pro? He said he wasn’t dwelling on it.
“I can’t be thinking about other things when I’m trying to prepare for a defense like Ohio State,” Darnold said.
People close to Darnold, as well as Darnold, have said he has not made a decision. He might return to USC, he might also enter the draft….