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Ricky Town Alters the Quarterback Landscape for USC

USC isn’t exactly in dire straits at quarterback now that 2015 recruit Ricky Town transferred to Arkansas. The Trojans return a Heisman Trophy candidate in Cody Kessler for 2015, and have his heir apparent, Max Browne ready for 2016.

Furthermore, Town’s transfer came early into a fall camp in which fellow 2015 signee, Sam Darnold, has flourished.

Still, USC is the only party in this move left empty-handed as a result. Town, who was clearly running fourth on the depth chart, gets an opportunity to redshirt for one year before competing in a much less crowded race to replace Brandon Allen next season.

Arkansas gets a prototypical pro-set quarterback, with a skill set that checks off every box on Bret Bielema’s list.

USC, meanwhile, is left looking to replenish the depth it lost.

This is hardly panic-button time, make no mistake. USC is looking good for at least the next two years, as Browne’s performance throughout the 2015 offseason has been stellar.

The dual-threat Darnold is guaranteed at least two years of learning the playbook and cultivating his game under a Heisman contender and former five-star with a very high ceiling. He’ll be ready to go when 2017 or 2018 rolls around, should all go according to plan.

But then, when does anything ever go according to plan?

Town’s departure is perhaps the clearer sign of the times that USC’s in a new era. The Trojans losing a traditional, pocket-passing quarterback while a two-way threat remains runs contradictory to every all conventional wisdom as it pertains to USC.

Look at the playmakers head coach Steve Sarkisian is targeting on the recruiting trail, and you’ll see that the times, they are a-changin’.

The Trojans aren’t exactly adopting a variation of the Oregon spread, but Sarkisian’s twist on the offense is a departure from USC offenses past.

Kessler’s running ability has long been considered a low-key weapon, and Darnold is a true dual-threat. Browne, regarded a pro-set prototype out of high school, has looked fluid tucking and throwing on the move.

JAN 03 2015: U.S. Army All-American Bowl East Team quarterback Sam Darnold (18) during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

JAN 03 2015: U.S. Army All-American Bowl East Team quarterback Sam Darnold (18) during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Of the four quarterbacks in fall camp, Town was the least equipped to operate in such capacity. His void opens a spot for someone better suited to do so.

Just days after Town’s transfer, however, Sarkisian and Co. missed on the first such prospect.

High-priority recruiting target Tate Martell announced his verbal commitment to Texas A&M on Thursday, spurning a potential reunion with Sarkisian.

Martell initially committed to Washington as an eighth grader, when Sarkisian was the Huskies’ head coach.

The commitment of four-star, dual-threat prospect Matt Fink is less perplexing now than when it was announced in May. Keeping the Glendora, California, product in the mix until national signing day 2016 takes on renewed importance.

Also expect a heavy push for 2017 prospect Tua Tagovailoa. A product of the same Honolulu high school that produced Marcus Mariota, Tagovailoa has scouting pundits like Scout.com’s Greg Biggins raving.

Biggins told KHON2.com in Honolulu:

He’s probably underrated in terms of eventually, I think he’ll be in that top 100. As strong an arm as you’re going to see, the ball just jumps off of his hand. (He) spins it really well, really consistent delivery, strong body, natural leader that just has a toughness to him. There’s a lot that I like about him.

Sarkisian’s primary competitor for the impressive Hawaiian recruit? Oregon’s Mark Helfirch and his staff, including offensive coordinator Scott Frost.

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