Breaking Down The USC Quarterback Battle

Who’ll be the USC’s starting quarterback? It seems like an obvious choice, but is actually not that clear-cut.

Is there a position in college football held to a higher standard than the USC starting quarterback?

Cody Kessler was tremendous, throwing for 3,536 yards and 29 touchdowns last season with just seven picks. Before his three-year run it was Matt Barkley at the helm. Before Barkley it was Mark Sanchez, and before him it was John David Booty, Matt Leinhart and Carson Palmer.

Do the Trojans have a passer ready and able to keep the run rolling?

There’s absolutely no excuse for the Trojan starter to not be special. Especially with JuJu Smith-Schuster leading a loaded receiving corps, Justin Davis carrying the load along with a tremendous group of running backs to help the cause, and a veteran line coming back after allowing just 18 sacks in 379 pass attempts.

But none of that might matter against Alabama’s defense when kicking off the season.

USC, of course, is USC, and it’s supposed to come into the season thinking it’s going to beat the Crimson Tide and be deep in the hunt for a college football playoff spot all season long. That’s not happening unless the starting quarterback situation is settled as soon as possible this fall.

It was all supposed to be an easy transition, with junior Max Browne stepping in for Kessler after spending the last two seasons as the main understudy. However, there was a wrench thrown into the plan this spring.

Redshirt freshman Sam Darnold was expected to be on the Browne plan, sit and wait his turn for a few years while being a strong No. 2 option. Then he looked every bit like the No. 1 in spring football.

At 6-4 and 215 pounds, Darnold has next-level size and the accurate passing arm to look the part of the next USC starting quarterback. He also adds something different to the mix – his mobility.

All the star USC passers have been just that – passers. Darnold isn’t a true dual-threat playmaker, but he can run well enough to give the Trojan a different element than it’s had over the last few decades.

Browne was the 2012 Gatorade National Player of the Year with 6-5, 220-pound size, a great arm, and the NFL skills to grow into special passer. But it hasn’t happened yet, and he didn’t take spring ball by storm.

Who’ll Be The USC Stating Quarterback?

This is a good situation for the USC coaching staff to be in. It’ll be Browne to start the season – USC isn’t going to want a redshirt freshman making his first start against Alabama – but it’s not going to be a lock. Browne – who hasn’t started a game, either – will step up his game in fall camp, but Darnold will look good enough to make this a quarterback controversy the second any on-field adversity hits.