With Sam Darnold Now The Heisman Favorite, Tee Martin Is Keeping The USC QB Humble

    Sam Darnold is now the new favorite to win the 2017 Heisman Trophy, and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin told Campus Insiders the Trojans quarterback needs to play as though the 2016 season never happened.

    February 22, 2017

    Sam Darnold is now the new favorite to win the 2017 Heisman Trophy, and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin told Campus Insiders the Trojans quarterback needs to play as though the 2016 season never happened. 


    Few major college football players have made larger strides than Sam Darnold has taken in the past seven months.

    When the 2016 season began, Darnold was the backup quarterback at USC. Now, he has a Rose Bowl victory inked on his résumé, and he’s the new favorite to win the 2017 Heisman Trophy.

    It would be difficult to carry oneself in the same way after experiencing such tremendous success like Darnold has since taking over the starting quarterback job for the Trojans.

    But if there’s anyone who will continuously be in Darnold’s ear to motivate the young quarterback and remind him there’s still a long way to go, it’s Tee Martin. The USC offensive coordinator spoke with Campus Insiders and shed some light on Darnold’s progression and ceiling as a quarterback.

    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    “He was young [last year]. Although he was so advanced for his [age] and having so much success last season, I still look at him as a freshman,” Martin said before addressing Darnold’s strengths. “His total overall game, whether it’s identification of defenses, pre-snap reads, post-snap reads, protections, taking care of the football, all of those things, [and] mechanics.”

    The Trojans will begin spring practice on March 7 to prepare for their spring game on April 15. The emphasis for Darnold will be to hit the reset button and approach the game the same way he did before he was a nationally recognized name.

    “We’re gonna look at this spring like last year didn’t happen and really go back to the drawing board as if he had never heard these plays before. And we’re gonna coach him like he just got here on campus,” Martin said. “That’s what you have to do with quarterbacks, especially quarterbacks that are really good and have success. You have to hold them accountable for the small things that become big things. And [quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator] Tyson Helton has done a great job of communicating that to Sam.”

    Getting caught up in his accomplishments shouldn’t be an issue for Darnold.

    Yes, he’s young. Yes, he’s been handed the keys to one of college football’s most storied programs. But the perception of the young quarterback — at least from his coaches’ perspective — is he’s a perfectionist.

    That’s a key trait to possess, especially for quarterbacks.

    “Sam is outstanding. He wants that [perfection],” Martin said. “He knows there are areas in his game where he wants to get better at. He came to us about it. He’s a competitor like that. He wants to be the best. He wants to have that perfect game and that complete feeling you have as a quarterback when you put in the work in the offseason, you do things ahead of time, and it helps you go out and play on Saturdays.”

    Martin and Tyson Helton will meet with Darnold soon to discuss the plan of attack for spring practice.

    While the Trojans may now be dealing with a glamorized Heisman contender, that’s only how the rest of the college football world sees it.

    To Darnold, Martin and those inside the USC program, it’s business as usual in Los Angeles.

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