In five months when USC is preparing to open the season, the Sam Darnold hype train is going to be chugging along at full bore. Heading into the 2017 season, Darnold is going to be one of the two or three hottest names in the country after he helped the Trojans go on a nine-game winning streak to erase a 1-3 finish and rewrite the 2016 campaign into possibly USC's greatest non-championship season.
But we've seen this scene before.
When Matt Barkley came back for his senior season in 2012, the Trojans were atop the polls in the preseason. Lane Kiffin had "PREP NOT HYPE" painted on the Howard Jones practice field as a reminder to USC's players that hype would win them nothing. Still, the Trojans flopped to a 7-6 record, losing five of their last six games and becoming the first preseason No. 1 to have such a precipitous fall.
Instead of abstaining from talk of expectations, Darnold is choosing instead to accept and foster the extra attention. It has become a motivator.
"To an extent, you've got to block it out, but at the same time, you should kind of embrace it," Darnold said. "I think it's good to embrace things like that, but also know that if you're ranked that high or what have you, people are going to be coming for you.
"Every single day, they're going to bring their best game. That's the mindset we've got to have and I think we're preparing really well to have a good season."
Watch USC redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold talk about dealing with expectations, the conversations he has had with former Trojan greats on the topic, working to make himself better during each spring practice and mechanical tweaks that he may make in the offseason.
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