USC Football: Quarterback competition has begun

Last year during spring football, three quarterbacks were competing for the starting role– Cody Kessler, Max Wittek and Max Browne.

USC Football

Max Browne during Spring Football practice in 2013. (Photo Credit:

This spring, the competition is down to two after Max Wittek decided he would transfer out of USC.

During the quarterback competition last season, former head coach, Lane Kiffin didn’t name a starting quarterback until the third game of the season. His eventual pick, Cody Kessler led the team to a 10-4 season and threw for 2,968 yards, 20 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He ended the season with a win over Fresno State, 45-20, in the Las Vegas Bowl.

For a first year starter, with three coaching changes throughout the season and multiple injuries, Kessler did an above average job as the Trojans’ starting quarterback.

However, his job isn’t secure for the upcoming season. Last spring and fall he fought hard to become the starting quarterback against Max Wittek and came out victorious. Max Browne, who was a freshman last spring also was in the mix.

This spring, the battle is between sophomore Max Browne and redshirt junior, Cody Kessler. Steve Sarkisian, the new head coach of the USC football team hasn’t made a decision yet and has no deadline set for doing so. With spring practice beginning only a week ago, there’s plenty of time for Sarkisian to name the starting quarterback.

Right now, both quarterbacks are learning the new no-huddle system and adjusting to Coach Sarkisian and the rest of the coaching stuff.

Coach Sarkisian said, “Kessler and Browne appear to have received close to the same number of snaps during the first three spring workouts” and “right now, [the coaches are] just gathering information”.

The interesting thing about Sarkisian and his relationship with Kessler and Browne is that it began years before he was hired as the head football coach at USC.

When Kessler was making a decision on what school he would go to, a big-name college coach was a priority of his. In an interview back in December, Kessler said,

“Me and Sark (Steve Sarkisian) were very close… I can honestly say that he probably did the best job of recruiting me. He was real and he was straight-up”.

On the other hand, during his time as Washington’s head coach, Sarkisian also recruited Browne, who played high school football in Seattle. In fact, he offered Browne a scholarship to play at Washington three and a half years ago.

Sarkisian’s decision is definitely a hard one to make. Kessler has a year of experience on the playing field, whereas Browne, the “traditional USC quarterback: tall, savvy pocket presence, precise passing touch and the nation’s No. 1-ranked pro-style prospect” (Kyle Kensing, Bleacher Report) has a year’s worth of experience learning the nuances of the pro-style offense. Additionally, during his time at Skyline High School, he ran a no-huddle offense and learned to read defenses on the line and adjust accordingly.

The competition is too close to call at this point, but Sarkisian wants to name a starter by the end of spring practice– even though it’s not something he considers a necessity. After the team returns from Spring Break, they will have 12 practices remaining for the coaches to evaluate them and make their decisions moving into the fall.

Naming the starting quarterback has to be a very strategic decision. Although skill and confidence and ability to lead the offense are the main reasons, the head coach has to keep in mind that the quarterback who isn’t named the starter might transfer. Rich Hammond, the USC beat writer for the Orange County Register (@RegisterUSC) said,

“Sarkisian might be tempted to delay announcing a quarterback until August, simply to reduce the odds of another transfer”.

However, chances are if Sarkisian knows who the starter is before the Trojans’ spring game, he will announce the starter and start preparing his first team offense. It’s also important to remember that just because the Week 1 starter is a certain quarterback, doesn’t necessarily mean that same quarterback will be starting the entire season. If the quarterback fails to perform on the field, Sarkisian will make a change.

It’s too close to call, but there’s a good chance that we will know the starting quarterback for the USC football team in the next couple of weeks.

My Prediction: Many believe Browne is the favorite, especially because of Sarkisian’s no-huddle system. Coach Sarkisian said the offense will be a “run first” offense, especially because of star running backs like Buck Allen, Tre Madden and Justin Davis who all proved themselves on the field last season and were an integral part of the team’s success. That being said, if Kessler continues to impress in practice, I believe he will get the nod as the starting quarterback.

Let me know your thoughts. Follow @USC_Aposhian on Twitter for more updates on the USC football team.

  • Trojan2015

    As a student/fan it’s tough to tell. I really like both guys. I agree that Browne is the favorite, but that’s only because we don’t know the limits if his talent yet. Kessler proved last year that he can be a good game manager. He’s not going to carry the team on his back & win games, but he won’t lose us games either. The next few weeks/months, I hope to see Kessler grow into a strong & confident leader who’s willing to take risks & put the team on his shoulders.