The Davey O’Brien Award announced semifinalists for the honor Thursday, including redshirt freshman Sam Darnold among the candidates to be named the nation’s best quarterback in 2016.
Since being named USC’s starter in late September, Darnold has surged into the conversation as one of the top quarterbacks in the country.
The redshirt freshman has thrown for 1,874 yards with a 67.9 percent completion rating and a ratio of 20 touchdowns to just four interceptions. His quarterback rating is seventh in the nation.
It’s not just the numbers which have caught the eye for Darnold. With his strong arm and improvisational ability, Darnold has transformed USC’s offense into a juggernaut, scoring 40 or more points in four of the last five games.
Darnold is one of just two freshman among the semifinalists, joining Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, who helped the Tide blow out the Trojans in his first career start.
The Trojan QB is also one of four representatives from the Pac-12, recognized along with Washington’s Jake Browning, Washington State’s Luke Falk and Cal’s Davis Webb
Last year, USC’s Cody Kessler was a semifinalist for the award but did not make the cut as a finalist.
USC has never had a quarterback win the O’Brien Award. Matt Leinart was a runner up in 2004 and 2005 but lost both years, first to Oklahoma’s Jason White, then to Texas’ Vince Young. Carson Palmer also earned finalist honors in 2002, as did Todd Marinovich in 1989 and Rodney Peete in 1987 and 1989.