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Competition Never Rests For Trojan Quarterback Hopefulls

Cody Kessler is the right man for the job, but Max Browne is in it for the long quarterback haul at USC.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When head coach Steve Sarkisian announced that incumbent starter Cody Kessler would lead the Trojans on offense, the decision signaled hope, confidence but also the constant reminder that competition never wavers.

After 12 practices under heavy questioning and some internal curiosity, Sarkisian finally had time to "Marinate His Steaks," before cooking up the recipe that Kessler was the best option for this team, this season.

"We can go out and win a lot of football games with Cody Kessler as our quarterback," Sarkisian said in support of his newly-appointed starting quarterback. Though, he quickly added that the race is far from over before opening kickoff.

Four months and 26 days before Lane Kiffin made his final decision to anoint Kessler the full-time starting role, head coach Steve Sarkisian said that "if we were starting a game Saturday (what do you know, the Spring Game), Cody would be our starting quarterback. I think he's deserved it. I think he's earned it. I think he's performed well."

From the day Sarkisian arrived on campus, talk centered around the fact that the new regime would put all the measures in place to assure that his eventual starter would be tested each and evert step along the way. From what we've seen thus far, at least of earning your role came true when two players heavily recruited by Sark during their high school careers signify the present and future of what to expect in USC's offense for years.

After breaking said news, Sarkisian attempted to settle his young quarterback's minds by explaining some of his previous coaching experience working from the likes of Carson Palmer to Matt Leinart, both of which won the Heisman Trophies.

Even stops from John David Booty to Mark Sanchez along with the unheralded college career from Matt Cassel were used as figureheads to preach the message that even if your number isn't called right from the very start, both Browne and Greene can still make a lasting impact for this program.

"Just stay the course and be ready, you never know when your shot's going to be," rings true for Jalen Greene (who will be a five-year backup QB prime to earn two solid degrees, ready to make plays with a strong dual-threat presence) but Sarkisian's words speak volumes for the talented five-star Sammamish (Wash.) native Max Browne.

Kessler took the first-team reps from day one. Lead the team in preseason interviews and questions, even landing a prime spot on the Spring Media Guide. Despite those obvious signs of what was to come, it will be equally intriguing to see what he can do this season now that he's acquired a better understanding of how to deal with intense competition.

"(Today) when you get that sense of relief, you tend to perform better," Sarkisian said about Kessler, who quickly pointed out that he put together his best performance of Spring Football during Tuesday's practice.

The assurance of being named starting quarterback barely stacks up to the emotional roller coaster Kessler endured during one of the strangest quarterback competitions we could've encountered. Then having an extremely promising finish to the year, throwing 10 touchdowns to just one interception during his final five games.

Right now, Max Browne has none of that for this team. What Browne can look forward to heading into the Summer, and Steve Sarkisian has talked about this for most of Spring Football, is the fact that he continues to improve throwing the football and he also loves guessed it, compete for the starting spot day in and day out.

"I guess I was hoping it would go into summer with just the mind-set of working and getting a chance to go into fall with it," Browne said. "Obviously the message was negative, but his attitude was positive."

The pressure has been lifted from Kessler's throwing shoulders to his head, where the next challenge is to keep players focused during this long layover period between now and this August's Fall Camp.

But for the rising talent who pledged to stay throughout his USC career (jokingly admitting that he would not transfer after graduation like Max Wittek), Browne understands that it may not be about winning today, yet that the end goal will eventually transpire thanks to countless reps and shear determination.

"Guys battle, guys compete, guys continue to work hard and ultimately when its time to play, we want to play great football," Sarkisian says, adding he wants "BIG-TIME STARTERS" that can win Pac-12 South Championships, Rose Bowl Titles and eventually National Championships.

"I think these guys have the capability to do it and when they get put in, they will perform great for us."