The ballots are in, the votes have been tabulated and the Trojans’ “quarterback competition” now appears to be over, as head coach Steve Sarkisian finally announced on Tuesday that redshirt junior Cody Kessler will be the starting quarterback for the Trojans in 2014.
As of now, it looks like Kessler, not redshirt freshman Max Browne, will be the one under gun when the Trojans open up the 2014 season against Fresno State on Aug. 30 at the Coliseum.
“If we were starting a game today, Cody would be our starting quarterback,” Sarkisian said. “I think he’s deserved it. I think he’s earned it. I think he’s performed well.”
The incumbent gets the starting job after leading the team to 10 victories and throwing for 2,698 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2013. Sarkisian asserted that Kessler probably had his best day of spring practice on Tuesday.
He praised Browne’s deep ball, but ultimately felt that Kessler’s leadership was the deciding factor. The decision to tab the Bakersfield, Calif. native is something that former head coach Lane Kiffin was unable to do the second week of the regular season.
“I’m confident we can go out and win a lot of football games with Cody Kessler as our quarterback,” Sarkisian said.
The coach also reserved praise for Kessler’s challengers. “[Browne’s] going to be a star, and [freshman Jalen Greene’s] going to be a great player.”
The experienced Kessler knows the responsibilities that fall on his shoulders by being named the starting quarterback and he made it clear he would keep working.
“It’s not over. This is ’SC,” Kessler said. “It’s always a competition and I’m going to keep pushing myself to continue to get better.”
The first-year head coach also added that Max Browne will continue to compete for the job into the fall and could still unseat Kessler.
“This competition is going to wage on,” Sarkisian said. “Max isn’t just going to go away … When fall camp rolls around, he’s going to come and swing at him again and give Cody his best shot and Cody will either respond like he’s done this spring and continue to get better, or Max will pass him.”
Browne claimed that Sarkisian informed him about his decision about an hour before practice and said that while he was disappointed, the conversation between him and Sarkisian was positive.
“[Sark] told me that he was excited about the future and what I’m doing and how I’m working,” Browne said.
The former five-star recruit explained how he wasn’t really sure about the timing of things, but was hoping that the quarterback competition would go into the summer.
“It’s a decision he made and I got to respect it, but I thought I made huge strides this spring,” Browne said.
When asked about the possibility of transferring with four years of eligibility still remaining, Browne made his intentions very clear.
“I’m staying put. I’m here for good,” he said.
At last week’s practice, Sarkisian had said that he had moved closer to coming to a final decision that would be announced before the end of spring ball.
Freshman Jalen Greene, who has showed some promise with his speed and versatility this from the pocket this spring, will assume the role of the team’s No. 3 quarterback.
Aside from the quarterbacks, The Trojans entered its final week of spring practice on Tuesday, where they continued their preparation for the annual spring game to be played at the Coliseum on Saturday.
Former USC players Mitch Mustain, Silas Redd and George Uko attended practice along with four-star wide receiver recruit Trent Irwin.
Thursday’s practice will be closed to the media and public, as Sarkisian continues to install new additions to the playbook for the fall.
Saturday marks the team’s annual spring football game. The game starts at 3 p.m. and tickets will cost 10 dollars. It can also be seen live on the Pac-12 Networks and Pac-12.com.