The first practice of USC’s spring camp launched at full speed Tuesday afternoon on Howard Jones Field, as did one of the biggest position battles of the season: The quarterback competition.
Redshirt junior Cody Kessler and redshirt freshman Max Browne are contending with each other and a new playbook as they work to claim the starting job for the Trojans in 2014.
That playbook is the great equalizer between the seasoned veteran and the young gun. Gone is Kiffin’s plodding pro-style. In is Sarkisian’s uptempo shotgun, which is close enough in scheme for both quarterbacks to understand right away, but run at such an increased pace that quickness of mind will be just as important as physical speed.
“Obviously the shotgun is a big adjustment but it is similar concepts to Kiffin’s offense and Helton’s offense,” Browne said, noting the biggest changes between this year and last. “Tempo. The whole team has to adjust to that.”
In an hour and 45 minutes of practice Tuesday, the offense ran 120 plays.
“It was way different. We did really nothing the same,” Kessler said, comparing Sarkisian’s style to the much slower pace of the Kiffin era, when plays were followed by lengthy discussions. “This was just go.”
For now, it seems that Kessler owns a reasonable advantage in the competition. After all, he started every game for the Trojans in 2013 and is getting first team reps in practice.
Even his answers to reporters questions were those of a veteran who knows all the right buzz words.
“I’m just trying to get better every practice. I’ve been competing my whole life. I still compete every time,” said Kessler. “It is what it is and I’m going to keep working to continue to get better.”
As for Browne, the benefit of experience is also evident.
“Last year I was wide eyed for sure. This go around I’m stepping in there knowing what to do,” Browne said.
Still, Browne is definitely aware of the uphill battle he faces in his attempt to knock off last year’s starter.
“I have to think with the playbook we’re on equal footing but it’s no secret [Kessler] led us to 10 wins.”