USC Football 2015: Previewing the Quarterbacks


With Heisman-candidate Cody Kessler leading the way, USC football has little to worry about at the quarterback position this fall.

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Last year Kessler thrived in Steve Sarkisian’s offensive system, racking up 3,826 yards and 39 touchdowns with just five interceptions.

One of the most efficient quarterbacks in college football, Kessler set USC records for completion percentage, passer rating and interception rate.

However, Kessler’s two worst performances of the year came in the two most significant losses of the season, against Arizona State and UCLA.

What We Learned in Spring:

Kessler is the man and Max Browne is the man in waiting.

With Kessler’s place at the top unlikely to be in doubt, spring camp storylines related to the quarterbacks revolved around Max Browne, Ricky Town, Jalen Greene and the race for the No. 2 spot.

Browne was quick off the blocks and gave no ground to the young challengers, affirming himself as Kessler’s back up and securing a lead in next year’s QB battle.

USC football QB Cody Kessler throws a pass against the Notre Dame. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Town clearly has a ways to go before he presents a threat to Browne’s starting aspirations.

As for Greene, his future now reportedly lies at wide receiver.

What Could Go Right:

No team in the Pac-12 can feel as good about their QB situation as USC.

With a quarterback as steady as Kessler, even the slightest improvement as a senior should produce a top quality season despite losing pivotal targets in Nelson Agholor, George Farmer and Bryce Dixon.

More than just slight progress could see the Trojans add another Heisman to the trophy case, as the preseason hype is already there, given the buzz around USC this offseason.

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Considering Kessler’s numbers in 2014, the senior quarterback needs only to add some Heisman moments to his resume.

Wins over the Sun Devils and Bruins would go a long way towards establishing his claim. A spot in the playoff would surely get him to New York, as USC doesn’t get that far without a stellar season from Kessler.

With Browne waiting in the wings, the prospect of an injury at the top of the depth chart is not a completely devastating scenario, lending credence to just how strong the Trojans are in the pocket.

What Could Go Wrong:

Kessler could stagnate in 2015. Worse, he could regress with mounds of pressure on his plate, a la Matt Barkley in 2012.

The strength of USC’s quarterback play last year was efficiency. Kessler never threw more than one interception in a game, and his completion percentage dropped below 60 percent just once.

There are playoff expectations to contend with this time around, however, along with the specter of national awards looming large. The temptation to force things will be great.

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Not to mention that Kessler will have much more liberty in the offense as a senior, giving him the ability to take chances that he might not have taken in previous seasons.

That could respond in numbers that aren’t are solid as last season’s. That’s OK for the Trojans, as long as the level of play stays the same or improves.

If not, the Barkley repeat remains the ultimate fear. While Barkley’s 2011 and Kessler’s 2014 numbers were nearly identical, the current Philadelphia Eagle doubled his interceptions as a senior. USC is hoping Kessler doesn’t follow suit.

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Projected Depth Chart:

  1. Cody Kessler
  2. Max Browne
  3. Sam Darnold
  4. Ricky Town

Overall Strength: 10/10

Between Kessler and Browne, USC’s quarterback situation is quintessentially ideal at the college level.

The Trojans are one of the few teams in the conference with true stability at the position returning a senior and three-year starter. Moreover, three of the four other big players to win the conference in 2015 –UCLA, Arizona State and Oregon– are all replacing graduating seniors and/or breaking in a full-time starter.

Though Kessler still has his doubters, his reliability is the foundation of the USC offense and the partly the basis for the Trojans’ immense offseason hype.