Max Browne admits it. He came in here a big-deal high school quarterback prospect and saw his USC career as going something like this: "I'll play three years and get out of here," he said Friday.
Now he's been here more than three years and he's still working to get in -- not out. The battle for quarterback with redshirt freshman Sam Darnold continues every day.
And that's OK with Max, the MBA candidate with his undergrad degree already. It's not the way he predicted it would go. Not the way he wants it. But this is the way it is and the way he's going to make it work for him -- and the USC team he's been leading this past winter, spring and now summer.
On the first day in summer when USC players were able to be interviewed, Max clearly took one for the team. Sure, he had the time to stop and talk, he said, as most of his teammates fled the field after more than two hours of hard work.
And yes, he wouldn't mind discussing "the competition."
"You have two great quarterbacks here," Max says. "I'm here to battle it out."
And yes, that is a surprise for him. "A little bit," he says. "What do I have to do? Good question."
But where he is now is in a place where he's "learned the last three years when things don't go your way," he says. You hang in there tough and make it come back around to you. It's the experience and understanding that helps him, Max thinks, maintain his leader's role having not played much his career here.
"I'm used to it," Max says. "It's real tough . . . it wasn't easy . . . I won't sugar coat it . . . it's extremely tough . . . but I'm here now."
And that fact gives him an advantage, he says. "I think I have a unique perspective as the leader of this team," as a former "top recruit" for whom things haven't gone all that well. "I can identify with these guys." And he can talk to them. "I'm definitely taking that approach.
Talk to him about how the offense is going and he talks about it being "more crisp" with "more structure" with the "new concepts from Western Kentucky" combined with the things he's been doing for his three years here. "it's a good five-day [a-week] workout.. . . it's intense."
But again, that's a given, Max says. No need to talk about his arm or the deep ball he throws so easily or his growing into his much-stronger 225-pound frame. That's also a given.
What isn't is the arrival sooner than expected of Darnold, an athletic, strong-armed, quick-footed, linebacker-like second-year guy from San Clemente who just keeps getting better and forced USC not to name a starter after the spring because, as Max admits, he was just so darn competitive.
"He's throwing the rock well," Max says of Darnold. But adds how "Matt [Fink] has made huge strides as well throwing the ball. "Our quarterback group is real close," he says, echoing QB coach Tyson Helton.
His friends ask him "How can you be friends with Sam?" Max says. "Your football life is on the line."
But his answer to that, he says, is to compete with "consistency . . . to make plays . . . to move team down the field and give it the opportunity to score points." It's that simple.
Max "knew it was an open competition," he says, since meeting with Clay Helton after spring ball. Max is still the guy calling the shots, taking most of the first-team reps and looking for all the world like the front-runner. But since "for the PRP's, the coaches aren't out here," he says, "I don't know what they have up their sleeves" as far as an August timetable or a way this plays out.
Later, Sam said he's liking the chance to run with the twos. "It gives me the chance to tell everyone what to do," he says. And with all the talented freshmen in now, he's throwing the ball against the likes of Jack Jones and that's a big-time challenge.
"He's got great ball skills," Sam says. "But I told him 'You're not going to get a pick today'," right before Jack did exactly that. "He's really good at reading my eyes," so no matter what he does, it's hard to run him off. But there is an upside.
"When I step in with the ones, I'm really ready," Sam says. And even with the twos now, "we have so many great DBs and wide receivers," well, it's starting not to matter as much who's on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
But looking to the fall and not knowing exactly how this all will go, Max's take can stand for the both of them: "Every practice will be huge."
*** FRIDAY FOOTNOTED: Zach Banner liked the sound of the numbers from Pro Football Focus charting his 426 pass protections last fall that allowed just nine QB hurries as he was tabbed the nation's No. 1 pass-blocking right tackle and No. 15 run-blocking RT. But when told that his 13 penalties were second-most in all of the FBS, his eyes got really big as he said simply with a shake of the head: "Second, really." . . . Uchenna Nwosu says his weight is holding at 237 and right where he wants it to be . . . for Chad Wheeler, the 316 pounds the NFL scouts weighed the 6-foot-7 senior in at this spring with the increased size and strength up top that comes with it has made a big difference for him blocking out on the edge at left tackle, he says . . . With the arrival of D-line grad transfer Stevie Tu'ikolovatu from Utah, the arrival at practice Friday of Long Beach CC transfer Josh Fatu and the switch of O-lineman Khaliel Rodgers, whose shoulder is completely healed, he says, to the D-line has a USC position that many considered thin and inexperienced with three more big, strong and experienced athletes than it had Tuesday. Not a bad week.
*** CHECK IT OUT: For Friday's PRP Ghost Notes, click here.
Not a USCFootball.com member? Sign up now and you'll get a seven day FREE trial! Join the Peristyle Family and get all the great information from USC football practices, Trojan football games, access to the Peristyle and all of the premium recruiting updates on USCFootball.com! Become a member today!