Often in the world of college sports, when a once-hyped recruit now battling for a starting job suddenly finds himself looking for greener pastures elsewhere, the oversimplified narrative sounds the same: “He didn’t want to compete”; “He’s just taking the easy way out.” But truthfully, that felt unlikely. The job was Slovis’ to win. And what if that happened and Slovis got the starting job again? Imagine it’s late August, Daniels is the backup and either has to transfer into an entirely new situation with no time to learn the program before the season starts or let his five-star talent rot for another year on the bench at USC. I’m no college athlete, but that doesn’t feel like the most desirable of situations. Head coach Clay Helton announced the news Thursday that we all saw coming, yet still arrived rather suddenly: Daniels is entering his name into the transfer portal. I hope I hear none of that slander surrounding JT Daniels. It was a perfect storm that allowed Slovis to take over the driver’s seat for that role, and very little of that storm is due to Daniels’ play. Was the 2,672-yard, 59.5% completion percentage and 14-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio everything Trojan fans hoped for from the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2018? Of course not. Was it enough to single-handedly lose him the starting job? No way in hell. (That’s why it didn’t in 2019.) But only one can. More and more, that has appeared to be Slovis. Daniels did what he had to do. So please, whether Daniels is still at USC come September or not, do him, my sanity and logical human beings everywhere a massive favor: Leave the slander in 2018. As soon as the then-sophomore quarterback went down in the first half of USC’s season opener last season and true freshman Kedon Slovis jumped onto the scene with impressive performances against Fresno State and Stanford, there was talk around town that Slovis was playing himself into the starting job next year. No, it was Slovis and his brilliant rookie season — one of the best of all time in USC football history — that forced Daniels’ hand. There’s not a single school in the nation that wouldn’t take a shot on Daniels — well, unless that school’s quarterback is Trevor Lawrence. Daniels should realize that, and I’m glad his decision to search for a better opportunity seems to reflect that. It’s not at all an indictment of his performance. It’s simply a result of Slovis’ dominance combined with the fact that Daniels missed out on a year of grooming by offensive coordinator Graham Harrell that should have Slovis primed to — dare I say it — compete for a Heisman Trophy in 2020. After all, that’s what Daniels deserves. It’s not a cop-out, not a lack of competitive fire. Daniels could have very well gone into fall camp with a chip on his shoulder, played his heart out and won the job while Slovis faltered. It’s a possibility. But go absolutely berserk Slovis did. In fact, so much so that now it’s extremely difficult to argue that anyone other than No. 9 should be under center against Alabama come (fingers crossed) Sept. 5. Nathan Ackerman is a sophomore writing about sports and sociopolitics. He is also an associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Courtside,” typically runs every Friday. Relax, I said. I warned everyone not to forget Slovis was still a three-star recruit, Daniels was a five-star and — as much as the talk surrounding Daniels’ play might hint otherwise — Daniels showed flashes of outstanding promise in 2018. Slovis would have to go absolutely berserk for the rest of the season if he wanted to make this a competition. Ever since Slovis made the quarterback situation interesting, this was an inevitable crossroads. Only one of the two could win the job for 2020, and one would inevitably get the short end of the stick. Both, either way, would be capable and worthy enough of starting at quarterback for the all-time winningest football program west of the Mississippi. But you just knew. You knew there was no chance Daniels would close his doors and refuse an opportunity — at least the chance — to look for a school where he could be the guy, he could thrive, he could be the unquestionable pilot of the offense without having to worry about his job security. As Slovis gradually became “the man” over the course of the 2019 season, Daniels and his family remained steadfast in their commitment to USC. In early December — after Slovis’ final regular season game — Daniels’ father said his son was “definitely” staying at USC to compete for the starting job, verbally pointing to the quarterback’s USC-themed leg tattoo as a sign of his desire to stay and win the job back from Slovis.