For now, the starting quarterback job at USC belongs to junior Cody Kessler.
New head coach Steve Sarkisian announced the news on Tuesday, via the Trojans' official athletics Twitter feed:
USC head coach Steve Sarkisian has officially named @CodyKessler6 the starting QB for the 2014 season.— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) April 16, 2014
Sark seemed to leave the door slightly ajar for heralded redshirt freshman Max Browne to continue to fight for the starting job in the summer and fall, however:
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
Still, that's probably more just something that a head coach has to say, and judging by Sarkisian's praise of Kessler, via the above Twitter account and 247 Sports' Mike Piellucci, it sounds as though it will be difficult for Browne to overtake the "veteran" on the depth chart:
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
Sark praising Kessler's decisiveness, leadership and deep ball accuracy in particular.— Mike Piellucci (@mikelikessports) April 16, 2014
After winning a QB battle with Max Wittek that extended into the start of last year's regular season, Kessler went on to complete 65.4 percent of his throws for 2,968 yards, 20 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
Who should start at quarterback Week 1 for the Trojans?
In what was a chaotic season that featured a midseason coaching change, Kessler provided a calm presence under center, helping the Trojans to a 10-4 record while continually getting better as the year wore on.
After a 14-10 loss to Notre Dame on October 19, Kessler threw 12 touchdowns and two interceptions in the final seven games of the season.
He may not have the raw talent or potential that Browne possesses, but he has the experience, and as college football writer Bryan Fischer noted, this was the expected decision:
USC names Cody Kessler the starting QB. No surprise.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) April 16, 2014
Still, don't lose track of Browne. The No. 1 quarterback prospect from the 2013 class has prototypical size and impressive physical tools, and presence won't likely let Kessler have a long leash. USCFootball.com's Ryan Abraham noted how things can change, while the incumbent knows he has to continue to get better:
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
"It's not over. This is SC. It's always a competition and I'm going to keep pushing myself to get better." -USC QB Cody Kessler— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) April 16, 2014
With anticipated improvement after an encouraging sophomore season for Kessler and a new coaching staff in Los Angeles, expectations will only continue to grow for the Trojans.
Still, with one of the most promising backups in the country, don't expect this to be the last you hear of USC's quarterback situation.