USC entered the 2017 season with expectations of competing for a national championship behind redshirt-sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold. But despite winning the Pac-12 title, the Trojans were never a serious contender for the College Football Playoff, partially due to an up-and-down year from Darnold.
Darnold failed to build upon his breakout freshman campaign and his season was marred by poor mechanics and a rise in his interception rate.
Despite failing to live up the lofty expectations, Darnold’s elite talent remains obvious and he has a bright future ahead of him in the NFL. Here’s a look at his passing chart from the 2017 season followed by a closer look at a few key stats:
- Darnold struggled with his decision making this season, tossing 13 interceptions and he’s lucky that number wasn’t higher. Darnold also had another seven would-be interceptions dropped by the defense. Excluding throw aways, Darnold tossed an interception or dropped interception once every 23.1 attempts in 2017.
- Despite losing JuJu Smith-Schuster to the NFL, Darnold benefited from a strong receiving corps this season. His receivers dropped just 17 passes—a impressive 5.3 percent drop rate. They also had a strong 30.2 percent contested catch rate, led by Deontay Burnett who caught 40 percent of his contested targets.
- Darnold generated a strong completion percentage under pressure (53.6 percent) but when throwing downfield his decision making got him into trouble. While facing pressure, Darnold attempted 68 passes at least 10 yards downfield which resulted in eight interceptions and another three dropped interceptions. That’s an interception or dropped interception once every 6.2 downfield attempts while facing pressure.