After a close competition that lasted into fall camp, redshirt junior Max Browne held off redshirt freshman Sam Darnold to claim the USC starting quarterback job, head coach Clay Helton announced on Saturday.
Browne, who waited three seasons, finally has his chance under center. But the odds-on favorite to win the position faced an unexpected challenge from the youthful Darnold, who impressed during spring practice. As a result, Helton did not name a starter following the spring game, opting to continue the competition during fall camp.
Browne is a 6-foot-5, 220 pound product out of Skyline High School in Washington. He was one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits coming out of high school, but has been stuck as a backup after redshirting his first season.
In limited playing time, Browne has completed 11-for-19 passing for 143 yards in his career.
Helton gave no indication prior to Saturday as to who would be named the starter, neither did the players nor assistant coaches. On Friday, the team held a final scrimmage during practice that helped to either sway or confirm Helton’s decision.
Darnold, an accomplished recruit himself out of San Clemente High School, forced the issue during practices with an impressive display of his dual-threat abilities.
But Helton ultimately stuck with the veteran Browne, who may have transferred to another school had he not been chosen.
Helton’s decision was not one he took lightly. He had admitted to the media that the choice was constantly on his mind and that he watched film on occasion at 3 a.m.
The coach also said on Friday that whomever he named as a starter would be given a lengthy leash.
Any celebration Browne might do will be short-lived; USC’s first game is in two weeks against defending champion Alabama.