LOS ANGELES--We all remember how last year's quarterback battle unfolded. It was long, arduous, even painful to watch at times as a decision just never seemed to materialize for the longest time.
Coach Sarkisian wants to quickly put to rest all the conversation about this season's starter, but is waiting for the right moment to unleash his grand masterpiece.
"It's marinating. You know when you have a steak? ... I'm not ready to cook it yet."
Cody Kessler, the redshirt junior who started every game last season, started Spring with the upper hand over Max Browne -largely due to experience and overall mastery of the offense- and the recent spring battle has yet to vastly flip the barometer in favor of the talented, but still developing No. 1 rated passer back in high school.
We know how each of these quarterbacks stand heading into the week, but it seems ever clear that coach Sarkisian knows what he wants to do. The question is when. "I have an idea, but I'm just not completely set," Sarkisian said.
Last season, Cody Kessler and Max Wittek (the quarterback who started the final two games of that prior season) battled it out from Spring Football to Fall Camp all the way through the first three weeks of the season.
"Max (Browne) is improving as well if not at the rapid pace of Cody (Kessler) so far," Sarkisian said back on March 29th, as both quarterbacks returned from Spring Break locked and loaded for the final few practices.
Cody Kessler took reigns of the offense on the way to a bounce-back 10-4 season including an impressive MVP performance (22-30, 345 yards w/ 4 TD's, 1 INT) in victory over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Max Wittek picked up sparing fourth-quarter reps, prompting an early transfer this year to a college location TBD -though Texas remains the prevailing wind while Max Browne acquired some valuable reps against the first-team defense.
"Last year I was trying to be perfect comparing myself to what Max did," Kessler said about fighting the demons of a long quarterback competition. "I used to be frustrated, upset but now I've learned from it."
Kessler has the backing of his teammates, and the Trojan moxy to take the program by the horns moving forward after leading his program through three head coaches and plenty of turmoil from last season.
Max Browne, meanwhile, gives Trojan Nation a glimpse on the new brand of quarterback that can make plays his arm and his legs underneath the atypical NFL-QB frame. He can assess the defense in quick-hitting fashion, and he possess a strong arm to throw all over the field in the soon-to-be redeveloped Coliseum.
From what we've seen thus far, Cody Kessler has asserted himself as the returning starter with the confidence, swagger and experience to battle through another season. While those prevailing wind may be leaning towards the savvy veteran, the talented redshirt freshman remains confident in his abilities, still embracing the daily grind of competition.
"I feel like I'm in the hunt, right there, making some good throws," Browne told the LA Times last week. "It's all about putting my best foot forward, and showing the coaches what I can do every day on film."
With five-star quarterback Ricky Town (St. Bonaventure) entering the fold next season, the competition could heat back up for even the next two to three years. The ideal path would allow Browne to start his final two years ('15-'16), and then Town would take over after redshirting before finally getting his two-year shot in 2017 and 2018.
Jalen Greene has a firm graspon the third-string role, ready to fill the shoes of an injured passer or even some situational work over the next five years. But much like the way Lane Kiffin tried to keep the faith alive for all his QB prospects, Steve Sarkisian wants both Max Browne and Cody Kessler to always feel challenged for the starting job.
Well at least until Steve Sarkisian feels ready to pave the way for a powerful quarterback carousel on the horizon.
Does Sarkisian have to name a starter before the Spring Game?
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