2016 USC Football Spring Preview: Quarterback

Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Max Browne (4) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Max Browne (4) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

USC football will field a new starting quarterback for the first time since 2013 this season, with the battle to replace Cody Kessler beginning in spring camp.

With USC football’s 2016 spring camp due to begin Tuesday, it’s time to look forward to preparations for the new season.

Clay Helton has his promotion up to head coach and Marques Tuiasosopo traded in his cardinal and gold gear for powder blue which means a new face will be on hand to shape the next generation of Trojan quarterbacks.

Tyson Helton got the most out of quarterbacks at Western Kentucky and he has a talented group to develop this spring.


Departing (1): Cody KesslerReturning (3): Max Browne, Sam Darnold, Jalen GreeneEarly Enrollees (1): Matt FinkIncoming Freshmen (0): N/A

Cody Kessler finished his career as one of the most prolific passers in Trojan history, but his successor will be expected to match stats with victories to a greater degree than the last USC quarterback.

The Trojans will have four scholarship quarterbacks, including quarterback-turned-wide-receiver-turned-quarterback-again Jalen Greene.

Max Browne spent the 2015 season as Kessler’s understudy and heir apparent, so it’s no surprise that he is expected to break from the pack to win the starting job.

In three years as a back up, Browne has completed 11 passes for 143 yards with very limited opportunities to see the field. However, over both spring and fall camp in 2015 he was labeled as “Quarterback 1A” behind Kessler. In fact, it has been widely accepted that Browne’s pure talent was greater than the starter last season, though his inexperience and decision-making remain question marks.

In terms of leadership and ability, Browne was given the Bob Chandler Award in recognition of his outstanding athletic ability, academic achievement and character.

Challenging Browne for the top spot is redshirt sophomore Sam Darnold, who also took home award in 2015 as the Trojans’ Offensive Service Team Player of the Year.

Darnold is a mobile option at quarterback with strong passing ability to match. His athleticism and ability to run could be the X-factors in the quarterback battle.

Early enrollee Matt Fink gives USC another dual-threat option at the position, though his involvement in the battle for the starting job this year would be among the biggest surprises of spring practice if he were able to gain an early foothold.

Greene will have a unique opportunity to reassert himself as a dark horse candidate to win the job after spending the 2015 season at wide receiver.

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Biggest Battle: Max Browne vs. Sam Darnold

It’s the biggest no-brainer of the spring battles, but it could also be the most easily settled.

Browne has the clear upper hand, just as Kessler had the upper hand on him during spring camp in 2014. The big question is whether or not Darnold can elevate himself to the level required to steal the job.

Most to Gain: Jalen Greene

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Greene has been in the program longer than Darnold or Fink, but a year away from the position keeps him firmly in the underdog category when it comes to the battle for the starting job.

However, Greene has more athleticism at his disposal than any of the other quarterbacks and has had a longer working relationship with new offensive coordinator Tee Martin than the rest. Though he won’t likely win the starting job by the end of spring, he could force the contest into the fall, where anything could happen.

Most to Lose: Max Browne

The starting job is Browne’s to lose. If he doesn’t secure it by the end of spring there will be disappointment considering how far ahead he should be at this point in his development.