This season, the quarterback situation at USC reminds me of the quarterback situation in 2009 when Matt Barkley enrolled at the University of Southern California.
Prior to the 2009 college football season, Mark Sanchez was the starting quarterback of the USC Trojans’ football team, but decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. His departure left a big hole in the quarterback position because of the stellar season he had, leading the Trojans to a 12-1 record and finishing with 3,207 passing yards and 34 touchdowns. Sanchez also led the USC football team to a Rose Bowl victory against the Penn State Nittany Lions with 413 passing yards and 4 touchdowns.
With Sanchez gone, head coach Pete Carroll had to make a decision. During spring practice, a three-way competition emerged between junior quarterbacks Aaron Corp, Mitch Mustain, and freshman Matt Barkley, who had enrolled early so he could participate in spring practice.
Corp and Mustain were both backup quarterbacks for Sanchez and both held the second quarterback spot on the depth chart various times throughout the season. At the end of spring camp, Barkley had impressed the coaches and was placed second on the depth chart behind Corp. During fall camp, Carroll named Barkley the starting quarterback and took a chance on the true freshman.
Needless to say, Carroll’s risk paid off for the Trojans even after he left USC to go to the NFL.
In his freshman season, Barkley had 2,735 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 60% completion rating. He didn’t have an exceptional season, but the experience he gained and the opportunity he was given to lead the offense was a solid base for his future success. That season, the Trojans finished 9-4 (5-4 in the Pac-12) and won the Emerald Bowl over Boston College. Barkley’s success continued and increased the following three years until his departure to the NFL. (Barkley’s Stats at USC)
When Barkley finished his career at USC, it had a very similar effect as Sanchez’s departure. Lane Kiffin, the former head coach of USC, was handed the task of selecting his next starting quarterback. During spring practice, he held a three-way quarterback competition, just like Carroll did back in 2009. Similar to 2009, two of the quarterbacks competing for the job were redshirt sophomores, Max Wittek and Cody Kessler. The third quarterback was Max Browne (@MaxBrowne4), a freshman quarterback who had enrolled early to participate in spring practice with the USC football team.
So far the stories are almost identical, right?
Here’s where things take a turn. Pete Carroll took a risk by starting a true freshman, but Kiffin didn’t do the same. During fall camp, Kiffin told Browne that he wouldn’t be the starting quarterback and cut the quarterback competition between only Kessler and Wittek. Kiffin said, “Max [Browne] has a great future. Ideally we’d like to redshirt him. Look forward to him competing for the job this spring”. (By “spring”, he meant the spring of 2014 after the end of the 2013 college football season).
This decision was one of the worst decisions that Kiffin made during his tenure at USC. Kiffin extended the quarterback competition until the first two games of the season, and even then, neither Kessler nor Wittek was worthy of the starting role. After the second game, Kiffin chose Kessler to be his starter and in 7 games he has 1,330 passing yards, 8 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Although his stats aren’t bad, Kessler hasn’t been a leader like Barkley was and he hasn’t brought excitement and enthusiasm to the game.
Kiffin should have taken a chance on his freshman quarterback like Carroll took a chance on his. Max Browne, who was ranked as Rivals.com’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback is now the No. 3 quarterback on the Trojans’ depth chart and practices with the scout team. Browne was disappointed in how things turned out, but took it as motivation.
Browne possesses all of the attributes of a pro-style quarterback, including a very good arm and even better instincts. Additionally, Browne is a pocket passer unlike Kessler which would fit perfectly in a system with Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor at the wide receiver position.
With Kiffin gone and Ed Orgeron in for the time being, only time will tell Browne’s future on this team. Orgeron has decided to keep Kessler in the starting role, but nothing is certain, especially with the Trojans’ struggles week after week.
We don’t know what would happen if Max Browne was the starting quarterback for the Trojans. He could be the worst quarterback in USC history, he could have a semi-decent season like Barkley did his freshman year, or he could be the greatest quarterback of all-time. But for now we won’t know.
Browne might not get playing time this year, but the likelihood of him becoming the starter next season is very probable. In my opinion, giving Max Browne the opportunity to play now and get acclimated with the game speed and create camaraderie with the young offensive talents like Tre Madden, Justin Davis and Nelson Agholor is crucial, if not essential for the Trojans’ future success.
If Kessler doesn’t step up and look like a starting quarterback, the Trojans should let Browne take the field and learn this season so he can come out strong and ready in the years to follow.
It’s time to replace the old M.B. (Matt Barkley) with the new M.B. (Max Browne).
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If you’d like, please sign and share this petition to get the attention of the USC football team to make a change and start Max Browne: https://www.change.org/petitions/ed-orgeron-and-the-usc-football-team-make-max-browne-the-starting-quarterback
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