USC redshirt junior Max Browne was named the Trojans’ starting quarterback coming out of 2016 fall camp, head coach Clay Helton announced Saturday.
Browne and redshirt freshman Sam Darnold competed for the starting role throughout this past spring’s practice and during the first two weeks of this fall’s camp.Browne, who has participated in four spring camps and four fall camps since enrolling at USC in the spring of 2013, has seen action in nine games the past two seasons as the backup to now-graduated three-year starter Cody Kessler. He has completed 11-of-19 passes (57.9%) for 143 yards in his career. He redshirted in 2013 after being named the 2012 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year at Skyline High in Sammamish (Wash.).
Darnold redshirted in 2015, his first season at USC after a prep All-American showing at San Clemente (Calif.) High.
“We were very happy as a coaching staff with the decision to continue the quarterback competition into our fall training camp,” said Helton. “We believe that the competitive atmosphere that was put in place allowed both quarterbacks to progress as players. We also gained valuable knowledge on each quarterback’s skill sets that will allow us to better game plan this fall. Finally, we learned that these two men are extremely talented, ultracompetitive, and possess all the leadership intangibles that you must have at the position. It made for one of the toughest decisions in my college coaching career. This usually is the case when you have very talented individuals at the same position performing at a high level.
“At this point, we feel that it is in the best interest of our football team to lean on the veteran experience that Max Browne has, so we have named him the starter going into our opening game against Alabama. With our experienced offensive line and the weapons at our skill positions, we as a staff are confident that Max’s ability will help guide a very successful offense.
“The performance by Sam Darnold at such a young age in both spring and fall camps has made us very confident as a staff that Sam could enter any game and our offense would not miss a beat. Though we will not rotate quarterbacks, we do envision using Sam’s unique athletic skill set for special situations throughout games this season.
“I personally appreciate how both men handled this competition with great maturity and comradery. After sharing the news with them today, both showed tremendous class and integrity. It is a great reflection of both men’s character. We are very fortunate to have them on our football team. I look forward to watching both have highly successful football careers here at USC.”
Browne replaces Kessler, the most efficient quarterback in USC history who set school career records for completion percentage and interception rate, as well as season marks for completions, completion percentage, passing efficiency, interception rate and touchdown passes. Kessler is now with the Cleveland Browns.
“I was thrilled when Coach Helton gave me the news,” said Browne. “It was a moment of realization that hard work and staying the course paid off for me. I feel like I have put in the work necessary to earn the starting position and I look forward to leading this team to championships. Sam is a heck of a player and he pushed me to the final day of camp. We are good friends and I have no doubt he will have a great career at USC.”
Said Darnold: “I was disappointed in the outcome but confident in Coach Helton’s decision. Coach spent lots of time watching the film and making his evaluation. I am proud of the performance I gave during practices and I felt that I made huge strides in terms of leadership. I will continue to work hard and prepare as if I’m the starter, so I will be ready when my name is called. I’m proud of Max for what he has done and how he competed. The competition made us both better. I have no desire to leave USC, this is the place for me. ”
Other quarterbacks on the Trojan roster are first-year freshman Matt Fink and a pair of walk-ons in redshirt freshman Thomas Fitts and true freshman Holden Thomas.
It is anticipated that a complete depth chart will be released on Sunday, Aug. 21.
USC opens its season on Sept. 3 against defending national champion Alabama at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. It will be the first meeting between the Trojans and Crimson Tide since 1985.