First year USC coach Steve Sarkisian announced with a week left of spring practices that Cody Kessler would remain the Trojans starting quarterback going into the 2014 season.
Kessler, a redshirt junior, spent the spring taking the majority of first team reps while redshirt freshman Max Browne challenged with the second team and midyear enrollee Jalen Greene battled for the leftovers.
Kessler picked up Sarkisian’s new up-tempo offense over the 15 fast-paced practices and if the redshirt junior is able to pick up where he left off in January, USC’s offense could be in great shape to start the season.
"We have a very talented quarterback group," Sarkisian said. "We have three players who can handle the things we'll ask them to do."
Despite the offseason staff changes, the quarterbacks are still coached by now fifth-year quarterbacks coach Clay Helton.
Losses: Max Wittek (Transfer)
Key Returners: Cody Kessler (RS Jr.), Max Browne (RS Fr.)
Newcomers: Jalen Green (Fr.)
2013 Review: Former USC coach Lane Kiffin couldn’t make up his mind who his starting quarterback would be before the Trojans kicked off their 2013 season in Hawaii. So, Kiffin listed redshirt sophomores Cody Kessler and Max Wittek as co-starters the first two games of the season.
As if you need the reminder, the Trojans won their opener in Honolulu against the Rainbow Warriors before falling 10-7 to Washington State at the Coliseum.
Finally before game three hosting Boston College, Kiffin named Kessler the Trojans starter.
Kessler won nine of the next 12 games, including a victory over Fresno State at the Las Vegas Bowl to finish the season.
While Kessler’s performances fell short of show stopping, the redshirt sophomore did show steady improvement over the span of the season, once his starting position was solidified.
Kessler finished the season with the best game of his career, earning him MVP honors at the Las Vegas Bowl, when he completed 22-of-30 pass attempts for 345-yards, including four touchdowns.
Kessler finished his redshirt sophomore campaign starting all 14 of USC’s games while winning ten of them. He completed 236-of-361 passes for 2,968 yards including 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while rushing for a touchdown.
2014 Outlook: Prior to spring practices, backup quarterback Max Wittek announced he would leave the Trojans football program to pursue an opportunity at another program. The move hardly came as a surprise since Wittek was in the same class as Kessler. It was widely believed when both quarterbacks committed to USC out of high school, that one (the loser of the eventual battle) would finish his career elsewhere.
Kessler and redshirt freshman Max Browne shouldered most of the load of the Trojans 15 spring practices as midyear enrollee Jalen Greene began to get his feet wet in college football.
Barring any major unexpected turn, Kessler will start for the Trojans when they open their season Aug. 30 hosting Fresno State in the Coliseum.
He spent the summer leading the Trojans through player-run practices. He missed one workout to travel to Louisiana to participate in the Manning Passing Academy.
Kessler will have the same stable of offensive weapons available to him a season ago, with exception of Marqise Lee, who left a season early for the NFL.Watch for the Kessler to Nelson Agholor connection. Those two spent most of the summer working on their chemistry – both on short routes and deep into the end zone.
Kessler was listed on both the preseason watch lists for the Maxwell Award (given to the top player) and the O’Brien Award (given to the top quarterback).
If Kessler builds a large enough lead expect Sarkisian to insert Browne, a former five-star recruit, late in games to allow the redshirt freshman to gain valuable playing experience.
While Browne will certainly challenge Kessler throughout the fall, it is unlikely he will makeup enough ground to takeover the starting spot from the ten-game winner.
"It's a very competitive position," Sarkisian said. "I know Max and Jalen will push Cody to make him even better."
This season most likely looks like the redshirting type for Greene.