A new coach, a new system and plenty of new players present the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans as essentially a brand new team with a new attitude. However, last year’s starting quarterback, Cody Kessler, comes into the 2014 season as anything but new. He's the favorite to retain his position as the teams field general … but will he lead the team or may his leading competition, Max Browne, grab the top spot behind center.
Steve Sarkisian, the new head coach for the Trojans, is installing an up-tempo offense, which could be the deciding factor as to whether Kessler or Browne will start at QB come this next season. Kessler is the incumbent and his scrambling abilities will be a bonus for Sarkisian’s explosive offense. Browne has a rifle for an arm and is more mobile than someone of his height (6’5”) would expect to have. A redshirt, Kessler has an experience advantage as he heads into his fourth year in the program. As a redshirt freshman, Browne hasn't had any game experience but his upside is enormous and with a new offensive scheme, neither quarterback has much in the way of a lead over the other.
Originally from Centennial High in Bakersfield, California, Cody Kessler stands 6’1” and weighs in at 215 pounds. As two of the highest rated QBs in the country, Cody went head-to-head with bigger Max Wittek, finally beating Wittek out after three games last season. As such, Wittek will be transferring later this spring.
Kessler, who plays bigger than his size would indicate, has quick feet and great command of the huddle. He can throw every pass and although Kessler may not have the gun that Browne exhibits, his arm strength is more than adequate. Cody grew with confidence last year and was operating at a high level by the end of 2013; leading USC to a convincing bowl victory and MVP award, 10 wins overall and a Top 20 ranking.
Max Browne is 6’5” and listed at 215 pounds although this spring, the redshirt freshman looks bulkier. From Sammamish, Washington, the Skyline High QB was the number one high school quarterback coming out of the 2012 prep season. His upside and potential have no bounds with skills that might make it tough to overlook and/or keep on the sidelines.
This is Browne's first year with a real chance to earn the starting quarterback position. His mechanics are way ahead of his age and that arm of his is a cannon. Max also has a great touch on his balls; but, his lack of time in a new system could work to help or hurt his chances as a starter.
By the way, there is a third quarterback in the mix. Jalen Green is an incoming freshman who enrolled early, but don’t expect him to push either of the two QBs in front of him. However, Greene a lefty, throws a mighty fine looking ball and the quick 6'3" 195 pounder gives Sarkisian a more dual-threat type to the QB position than the other two.
With a fast-paced offense, Sarkisian will need someone who is adept at making quick decisions along with a fast rhythm. Both Kessler and Browne have looked solid in spring practice - so no matter whom Sarkisian decides on, the Trojans should be ready to attack in 2014.
And the starter is ...
The choice from yours truly is Kessler. It just makes sense that the guy who commands the field and huddle the way Kessler does without mistakes, has to be first string. Browne is not that far behind and if Kessler should falter, Browne is very capable. However, considering all the competition Kessler went through to get where he is, don’t expect him to stumble now.
“I'm excited to see Max and Jalen perform and I know they will push Cody to make him even better.
That's quite a hint at where Sarkisian's leaning. There's more spring practice and then fall, but Sarkisian appears set to make a decision at the end of spring and the conclusion will likely be Cody Kessler as the USC Trojans starting quarterback when they enter the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 30th against the Fresno State Bulldogs. Yes, the same Bulldogs that Kessler and the men of Troy sliced and diced last December in the Las Vegas Bowl. That's another reason to keep Kessler as the starting quarterback.
Additional source: University of Southern California