March 11th marks the start of USC spring practice, a time when slates are swept clean and position battles begin anew. Steve Sarkisian and his new staff will get their first real look at the 2014 squad, which means Trojan fans also have a chance to start fresh evaluating the players who will make or break the new season.
This week at Reign Of Troy we’re taking a look at what to expect from each position group, now onto the quarterback:
Seniors - N/A
Juniors - Cody Kessler (RS)
Sophomores - N/A
Freshmen - Max Browne (RS), Jalen Greene (EE)
What was a three-horse race in 2013 has been whittled down to a two-man fight between incumbent Cody Kessler and challenger Max Browne.
Kessler holds the clear advantage with a season of starts under his belt. There is no question the redshirt junior improved drastically over the course of the season. In fact, the quarterback who played in the first half of the games against Hawaii and Washington State was barely recognizable compared to the one who torched Fresno State with 345 yards and four touchdowns.
Whether using his legs on an improvisational streak or finding his receivers with poise in the pocket, Kessler certainly earned his place as the starter. In fact, his progression almost surely solidified Max Wittek’s decision to search for an opportunity elsewhere.
That said, Kessler’s problem has always been one of ceiling, which is exactly where Browne comes in. Browne was Rivals’ #1 quarterback coming out of high school in 2013. By all accounts he possesses higher upside than his teammate. He’s taller, he has a stronger, more polished arm and boasts great accuracy, though he lacks Kessler’s mobility. In terms of tangible qualities there is no reason to believe he can’t push for the starting gig.
However, as Wittek can attest, it isn’t all about the measurables.
With a new coaching staff and offense, the two quarterbacks will stand on more even footing than if the previous staff remained. Even then, the quarterbacks coach Clay Helton is still around, which means the two will be performing before both old and new eyes.
Interestingly enough, both Kessler and Browne were recruited by Sarkisian out of high school and both are familiar with the offense he plans to run.
As for Jalen Greene, the early enrollee presents a different look for Sarkisian and company as the lone dual-threat quarterback available. Still, it would be the surprise of all surprises if he fought his way into the picture.
More position previews: