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Clay Helton plans to announce USC starting QB on August 20

Veteran backup Max Browne and high-ceiling freshman Sam Darnold battle for starting QB job at USC.

NCAA Football: Southern California Spring Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The battle between Max Browne and redshirt freshman Sam Darnold to be Cody Kessler’s successor and week one quarterback now has a deadline according to Trojans head coach Clay Helton.

On August 20th, Trojan fans will see if it is either Browne or Darnold taking snaps under center in the squad’s opening contest against defending national champion Alabama.

While Browne saw just three games of action last season serving as Kessler’s backup, Darnold has yet to take his first collegiate snap. Browne completed eight of his 12 pass attempts over three games in 2015, totaling 113 yards.

Both quarterback features strong arms, so it is likely that the job will be won on intangibles. Darnold is regarded as a player with a high football IQ after a storied high school career at San Clemente. The Capistrano Beach, California native was named Orange County Register All-Orange County Offensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2014 before earning USC’s Offensive Service Team Player of the Year in 2015.

While Browne has played just nine games and made 11 completions in his career, he enters the 2016 season as USC’s most experienced quarterback and likely, the favorite to win the starting job. The 2012 National High School Player of the Year has spent the past two seasons as the No. 2 quarterback and likely could have his first career start against the head coach who recruited him to play at USC – Lane Kiffin.

In an interview with ESPN, Browne expressed that while has thought about Alabama’s imposing defense, he has spent the majority of his time focusing on beating the defense he faces in practice each day.

“I have to go out and beat [USC defensive coordinator] Clancy Pendergast's defense first before I worry about Nick Saban,” stated Browne.

11 days remain before Coach Helton makes his final decision, and for his first full year as head coach, it could be a decision that defines his career leading the Men of Troy.

Helton stated with ESPN after USC opened camp on August 5, "Today, both of them played well, I thought that they made good decisions. Just like it was in the spring, both are playing at a very high level."

USC and Alabama, who is undergoing a four-man quarterback battle of its own, square off in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, on Saturday September 3 at 7:00 p.m.