USC's most important position battle has finally been decided, with head coach Steve Sarkisian announcing on Tuesday who will be the Trojans' signal-caller in 2014:
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian has officially named @CodyKessler6 the starting QB for the 2014 season.— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) April 16, 2014
Sark on Kessler: "I'm confident we can go out and win a lot of football games with Cody Kessler as our quarterback."— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) April 16, 2014
Sarkisian praised Kessler's deep ball, leadership and loves the competitive spirit that he brings to practice.— Evan Budrovich (@evanbud) April 16, 2014
Sark addressed the media after Tuesday's practice in USC's final week of spring camp. Last Saturday, the head coach had backed off from saying he would name a starting quarterback soon, but clearly, things have changed in Troy.
While this ruling comes as no surprise—Kessler started nearly all of USC's games in 2013, giving him a significant advantage over his main challenger, Max Browne—Sark's decision to name a quarterback early is the right choice not only for the fans' sake, but also for that of the quarterbacks themselves:
Kessler being named the starter in the spring very different than being named the starter in week two of the season. #USC— Ryan Abraham (@insidetroy) April 16, 2014
Kessler calls winning the job "another big opportunity for me", thanks Browne and Greene for creating a great competition— Mike Piellucci (@mikelikessports) April 16, 2014
Last season, the Trojans struggled to have an identity in the early weeks of the season because they didn't know who their true quarterback was. As we know, things came together in the end, but it was an unnecessarily bumpy start.
Having Kessler know in April that he will be starting in August gives him the confidence to know he can lead the Trojans yet again, and it gives the rest of the team and the coaches a focal point around which to build.
It's important that Sarkisian, already facing all the challenges inherent to being a new head coach, makes his first offseason as seamless as possible. Naming a quarterback before the spring game helps accomplish that goal, and it's the right move considering the training wheels are still on the uptempo offense.
All that said, Sark left the door open for Browne to still have an opportunity to change things come the fall:
Sark explained that Kessler would be the starter if USC played a game this week but stressed that every position is open to competition.— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) April 16, 2014
Sark on Browne: "Down the road, Max is gonna get better and he's gonna be one heck of a player."— Evan Budrovich (@evanbud) April 16, 2014
Even if a battle reopens, it's likely that Kessler starts on August 30, and that prevents a cloud of uncertainty from hanging over USC through the offseason.
For Browne, it means another year of sitting on the sidelines, but when it was his turn to address the media, he made it clear that he intends for those sidelines to remain cardinal and gold:
Browne said he wants to get his degree at #USC and he is "here for good."— Ryan Abraham (@insidetroy) April 16, 2014
Quarterback competitions are nothing new at USC, with former Trojan stars like Matt Leinart, Mark Sanchez and John David Booty all having gone through them. For Browne, this is just another stepping stone:
Browne says that he's taking the Booty-Sanchez parallel with him, of two top quarterbacks who both played in a season— Mike Piellucci (@mikelikessports) April 16, 2014
Coach Sarkisian will certainly continue to push and challenge Kessler through this final week of spring camp, and now that he knows he's won the job, we can expect that Kessler's performance on Saturday will be even further evidence that Sark made the right choice.