The mystery man of this recruiting class is staying in Southern California.
Quarterback Sam Darnold, a San Clemente High School prospect with fewer than 800 career varsity passing yards, committed to USC on Friday. The Tritons football program announced his decision on Twitter:
Darnold, a 6'4", 208-pound prospect, missed the majority of his junior season while recovering from a foot injury that required surgery. Utah extended a scholarship following a sophomore season that saw him play tight end, quarterback and linebacker, but after being sidelined in September he wondered what would happen to his college recruitment.
"Getting hurt early in my junior year was definitely tough to deal with since I thought I could pick up some offers during the season," Darnold said earlier this month. "It was really hard for me to miss seven games."
Despite the disheartening development, Darnold managed to put together a quality highlight reel in just three starts. He completed 63 percent of his passes for 337 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, per MaxPreps.
Due to his large physique, Darnold may not look like a rushing threat when you first lay eyes on him, but his game tape proves otherwise.
He averaged nine yards per carry, gaining 322 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Darnold devastated defenders with a hard-nosed, north-south running style that should make him a dynamic force in the red zone.
His athleticism is also apparent on the basketball court where he was the Sea View League MVP as a sophomore. Darnold returned from the foot injury in impressive fashion, tallying 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in his first game back after missing the season's first 10 contests.
A blend of strength and agility progressively vaulted Darnold up 247Sports' composite rankings. He is rated the ninth-best dual-threat quarterback in the country.
Impressive performances at regional camps earlier this year earned Darnold an invitation to the Elite 11 finals in Beaverton, Oregon. He attended the event last week and proved his limited track record shouldn't prevent him from being considered a top-tier prospect at the position.
"I've done my best to work on everything I can as a quarterback to prepare for this fall," Darnold said after an Elite 11 session. "I'm trying to step my game up and see where I can go from here."
During the revered camp, Darnold received tutelage from Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer, along with current and recent college standouts like Blake Bortles, Bryce Petty and Everett Golson. He anticipates a strong senior season once he finally returns to live game action.
"You'll see cleaner mechanics, especially after being at the Elite 11," Darnold said. "I think my decision-making is going to improve and really just understanding how to attack defenses."
He flashed a strong arm and solid accuracy in Oregon, earning respect from fellow quarterbacks and top receiver recruits. Ricky Town was among those quarterback contemporaries throughout the week.
The 5-star prospect from Ventura, Calif. committed to USC in January. He previously pledged to Alabama before backing off that verbal pact to join the Trojans.
Town plays the position with a style that contrasts Darnold. He is far more polished from a mechanical standpoint, particularly when it comes to footwork.
However, he is strictly a pro-style pocket passer. Town is able to deliver passes on the run to buy himself time and can gain chunks of yardage on the ground when necessary, but he doesn't compare to Darnold when it comes to giving defenses something to stress about as a rusher.
FOX Sports reporter Greg Biggins noted the newest USC commit doesn't seem phased by Town's presence:
Darnold, who landed a USC offer in late June, hadn't discussed the circumstances with Town through two days of Elite 11 action.
"I haven't brought it up to Ricky yet, but I want to talk about it with him while we're out here together," Darnold said on July 7. "I want to find out where he stands with the coaches and how he feels about the situation at USC."
It's certainly an element of the 2015 recruiting cycle that will be discussed at length as national signing day approaches. The Trojans now carry two Elite 11 quarterbacks in a class that ranks 10th nationally in 247Sports' composite team ratings.
Town, a long-established national prospect who committed to the defending national champions before his junior year, then made in-state fans rejoice by jumping from Alabama to USC's burgeoning bandwagon.
Darnold, an under-the-radar, seldom-seen recruit, rose to prominence this spring and stunningly collected offers from the likes of Tennessee, Northwestern and Oregon without totaling double-digit touchdown passes in his high school career.
It's an intriguing new storyline to follow as first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian begins to make his mark on the storied program.
Recruit ratings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.
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