Who will win USC's starting quarterback job?

USC opens spring practices March 11. For the second straight year, the quarterback battle will take center stage. Who will win it this year?

Pro-style, uptempo
Spring practices will bring a new look for USC's offense.

USC coach Steve Sarkisian continues to emphasize the Trojans new offensive system is not a spread.

It does differ, however, from the tradition pro-style football USC fans have come to expect.

"We go a lot faster,"Sarkiain explained. "That's probably the biggest change."

Sarkisian committed to the up-tempo system in his final season at Washington. The Huskies improved from a stagnant three-season 7-6 record to a 9-4 football team in 2013.

"It has been something that I have been trying to tinker with over the last two or three years and we'd sprinkle in during games," he said. "This year, we made a full commitment to it and I thought it was a great change for us."

The change will appear at USC as well.

"There have been schemes that have really withstood the test of time that we have been running that we will continue to run, just like any offense," said Sarkisian. "You find nuances in that that you try to add to."

Sarkisian insists he isn't trying to "re-invent the wheel". Rather, he's just trying to find a competitive edge. "A lot of the same plays have never changed, it's just that the fashion in which we do it is what has changed."

The Trojans will be a run-first football team. Quarterbacks will be expected to look for play-action.

"The play action pass is a quarterback's best friend," Sarkisian said. "We just do it in a little more tempo now and we do it in a way that I think is very player friendly to allow them to be successful."

Who will be the most successful?

Sarkisian is opening the quarterback this spring battle to find out.

Cody Kessler, redshirt junior
Cody Kessler started all 14 games for the Trojans in 2013, leading USC to a 10-4 record.

He finished the season completing 236-of-361 pass attempts, good for a completion percentage of just over 65 percent.

Over the season, Kessler threw seven interceptions to his 20 touchdown passes.

After starting the season 4-3, Kessler seemed to improve game by game. USC won its last 6-of-7 games behind strong Kessler performances.

His best game of the year, arguably, came in the Trojans' Las Vegas Bowl victory, completing 22-of-30 pass attempts with just one interception and four touchdowns.

"Obviously, Cody the way he finished the season there, I thought played at a very high level," Sarkisian said. "He finished that off with a tremendous Las Vegas bowl."

Kessler is quarterback battle tested, plus he's now season tested – and came out a much better quarterback than when the season kicked off.

He will enter spring the favorite to retain his starting quarterback status from 2013.

Max Wittek, redshirt junior
Max Wittek would be entering his redshirt junior season with the Trojans, but he has elected to transfer from USC.

Wittek started the final two games of his redshirt freshman season in place of the injured Matt Barkley. USC lost to No. 1 Notre Dame and to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl in those two contests.

After a quarterback battle that spanned from spring practices in 2013 through the first two games of the season, Wittek was announced as Kessler's backup.

He will not participate in USC spring practices. He will graduate from USC after the spring semester and will be eligible to play immediately elsewhere.

Texas appears to be Wittek's frontrunner.

Max Browne, redshirt freshman
Max Browne enters his redshirt freshman season with an open quarterback battle to look forward to.

Browne was recruited by Sarkisian at Washington before verbally committing to the Trojans over his hometown Huskies.

Browne, Scout's No. 1 quarterback in the 2013 class, spent his freshman season redshirting after falling behind in the fall quarterback battle with Kessler and Wittek.

"He is now maturing as a redshirt freshman," Sarkisian said.

Browne's best hope to bump Kessler off the starting pedestal is the fact he's a young quarterback with a new head coach.

It's a trend worth noting, first year coaches going in different quarterback directions.

It was successful across town when UCLA coach Jim Mora went with freshman Brett Hundley over veteran quarterback Kevin Prince. It appeared to be the best option at California when Sonny Dykes named freshman Jared Goff the starter over redshirt freshman and favorite Zach Kline.

Then, look no further than former USC coach Pete Carroll's decision as the Seattle Seahawks head coach (In his third season) to go with rookie Russell Wilson over multi-million dollar man Matt Flynn.

If Browne is going to win the starting job, this is his best year to do it. 2015 Scout No. 1 quarterback Ricky Town will be in the mix next year.

Jalen Greene, freshman
Jalen Greene graduated in December from Gardena (Calif.) Serra high school, enabling him to enroll early at USC.

The true-freshman is a Scout three-star quarterback prospect.

He is more athletic and mobile than Kessler and Browne, however he'll have to prove he has the arm strength and decision making ability to make an impact as a first year quarterback.

"Jalen Greene is just a winner," Sarkisian said. "He's a thrower, he has the ability to run it, I think he's fantastic in that way."

It's too soon to rule Greene out, but he's starting far behind the Kessler-Browne race.

The biggest question
Which of these three quarterbacks will best fit Sarkisian's up-tempo style?

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