Max steps in to start July

Catching up with Max Browne, Jordan Simmons and Chris Hawkins.

These are the days made for Max Browne.

Heisman Trophy candidate Cody Kessler was off to Oregon for the Elite 11 as a camp counselor and the Trojans, opening their July early morning player-run practices Tuesday, were all Max's.

"That has to be your mindset," says Max, a redshirt sophomore quarterback going into his third fall who's followed up a strong spring performance with another top effort thus far in the summer.

"It can change in a flash," he says of the mentality all backup quarterbacks have to have. The first for Max has been that he doesn't think of himself as a "backup."

The only reality here is that "There's no Cody," he says.

And it's time for Max, who much as Cody does in these summer workouts, spent a good bit of time Tuesday working with the three freshmen -- Ricky Town, Sam Darnold and Michael Bowman.

"That's what you do, making sure the new quarterbacks -- Ricky, Sam and Michael -- know what to do," he says. He's done this before, Max says.

"I think it went great . . . I did this last year," he says, but there may be a difference. Last year, Max was pretty sure he could step in and take over. Now he knows he can.

"Definitely . . . I'm always trying to push myself," he says. Max is getting some help from the circumstances.

"We don't have to learn a new offense now and the coaches have been here for a year."

And despite checking in at the same 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, "I'm stronger, my numbers are up on all the [physical] tests," he says.

Tuesday, his passing and tutoring numbers were up as well. Just the way he likes it.

"That was great," Max said, jogging off with a big smile.

Starting all over


His move to nose tackle has been going well, Jordan Simmons says. He's down from 368 pounds, his high last year when a knee injury kept him from doing much, to 331 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame.

Jordan says the move to defense that was "a mutual decision between myself and Coach Sark," for the redshirt junior many have felt has always had great athletic potential. "Coach had to approve" and then so did Coach Chris Wilson for the D-line guys.

"Now it's like I'm starting over," he says. "I'm working really hard to lose my offensive line mechanics -- both with my hand placement and my feet. It's really different." And he's getting some extra help a couple of times a week.

"I'm working with [strength coach and former USC All-American] Kenechi Udeze," he says.

One of the pluses of his move, many say, is that he'll be the lone senior on a very young USC group of D-linemen next season with only junior-to-be Kenny Bigelow a fellow upperclassman.

Not so fast, Jordan says. "Everybody talks about next year," he says of a season that opens with Alabama. "But I'm like a freshman right now. I've got to learn a lot this year."

Chris' comfort level at safety


Despite being much-maligned at times last season and even with the loss of seniors Josh Shaw and Gerald Bowman, the USC secondary looks like it could be one of the bright spots this year.

Along with all-world sophomore corner Adoree’ Jackson, the Trojans return a sophomore safety duo in Chris Hawkins and John Plattenburg to go along with junior Leon McQuay III and senior cornerback Kevon Seymour.

“We’re young back there, but I think that is an advantage for us,” Hawkins said Tuesday. “We all played last year and we know what to expect when we go out there next year.”

If the most recent workouts are any indication, Hawkins and McQuay are essentially switching spots. Hawkins moved to safety during the spring and McQuay has been lining up and getting reps at cornerback during summer player-run-practices.

Hawkins continues to get more and more comfortable at the position saying he “knows the defense like the back of his hand right now.” One thing that has helped him learn the safety position has actually been teaching the spot. Hawkins is constantly working with the freshmen defensive backs to the benefit of both parties.

“When I teach, I’m also learning myself,” Hawkins said. “You know, there’s mistakes that I made in the past, last spring that I get to learn by teaching the freshmen out here. I get to see second-hand what’s going on. I learn a lot every day.”

-- BY SHOTGUN SPRATLING

TUESDAY QUICK TAKES: Early start had the Trojans going immediately after the 6 a.m. team run by 7:30 -- an hour earlier than last July's double-header throwing sessions . . . The back-to-back workouts made for a quieter, more workmanlike day . . . still no Taylor McNamara, the grad student transfer tight end from Oklahoma. As a potential blueshirt, the San Diegan will probably have to wait until camp to get started. He can't do anything official until camp and he's not nearby like another blueshirt, Serra grad Deontay Burnett, who can come into the workouts easily . . . Burnett and Christian Tober were the two wide receivers who stayed late to work on the Juggs machine . . . Doing the numbers on the weights for some players: Zach Banner -- 350 but he hopes to get it down into the 330s possibly; Antwaun Woods -- 315; Max Tuerk and Chad Wheeler -- 295 each; Jabari Ruffin -- 247.

CHECK THIS OUT: For more details and play-by-play on Tueday's workout, check out TUESDAY JULY THROWING SESSION 1 GHOST NOTES.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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