All eyes are on the quarterback position at USC's fall camp. Redshirt junior Max Browne and redshirt freshman Sam Darnold are under the spotlight each day as they battle for the starter's role.
But it's another yellow-jerseyed football slinger that has made the most progress from spring to fall. Freshman Matt Fink has taken advantage of his January enrollment to make big strides as he transitions to the collegiate level. The ball is coming out of his hand better and his is throwing with more confidence.
While many freshmen quarterbacks come in expecting to compete for immediate playing time, Fink is taking advantage of the opportunity to watch and learn behind Browne and Darnold.
"These guys are ballers," Fink said. "It's fun to learn from them and get a bunch of new experiences. It's awesome."
"I see little things and I try to mimic what they do. It's fun watching them compete and being able to be in the middle of that -- spectating almost, it's fun. They're both great players and I can't wait to see how it turns out from them."
Though he quickly redirected a question about how the position battle is shaping up, Fink said seeing how both quarterbacks are handling the situation is something else he is learning from.
The 6-foot-3 Glendora product isn't ready to compete with Browne or Darnold currently, but he's preparing his body and mind just in case he is forced into action earlier than expected.
The first thing he has had to do is add weight to allow him to physically be able to compete against defenders that may be four or five years his elder. Coming out of high school, Fink's slight frame wouldn't stand much chance against a blindside hit from a 330-pound defensive tackle or a safety coming down in the box to deliver a big blow on a read option keeper. Even though he hasn't started his first fall semester, of classes Fink has already collected his 'freshman 15.'
But this isn't an Easy Mac and Cheetos freshman 15 that goes straight to the belly. With the USC training table and the direction of team dietitian Andrea Vanderwoude, Fink has gotten bigger and stronger and he is hoping to continue putting on the pounds.
"It's pretty embarrassing to say. I came in here at like 179 [pounds]," Fink said. "Now I'm almost up to 200, so I'm pretty stoked about that. It is happening very quickly. I'm gaining a lot of weight. Obviously, they give us a lot of food and they do us right."
As of now, there isn't an ideal weight or target to shoot for. He's seeing how his body reacts as he bulks up. The additional weight appears to have helped his arm strength and as long as the gains don't affect his throwing motion, he wants to continue to get bigger.
"I'm kind of just going along with the flow right now. Coach Tyson [Helton] wants me to put on weight, so I'm going to keep putting on weight until he tells me not to."
Fink is also focusing his attention on becoming a playbook scholar. Though he may not play this season, he will likely be involved on every offensive play after spending the summer signaling all the playcalls from the sideline during the Trojans' player-run practices when he wasn't in the lineup.
"I'm actually rooming with Sam right now," Fink said. "Me and him kind of get into the playbook every night -- just learning some stuff. He's helping me out and I'm starting to really take it down and learn everything pretty quickly."
"I think just being here and learning from Sam and Max is really helping me a lot."
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