UPDATED: Max Browne named USC's starting quarterback

Clay Helton has chosen his starting quarterback to lead the Trojans.

The verdict is in. The decision has been made. 

Clay Helton has chosen redshirt junior Max Browne to be USC’s starting quarterback. Helton went with experience and leadership over the dual-threat versatility of redshirt freshman Sam Darnold.

"At this point, we feel that it is in the best interest of our football team to lean on the veteran experience that Max Browne has, so we have named him the starter going into our opening game against Alabama," Helton said in a statement released by the school. With our experienced offensive line and the weapons at our skill positions, we as a staff are confident that Max’s ability will help guide a very successful offense. 

“The performance by Sam Darnold at such a young age in both spring and fall camps has made us very confident as a staff that Sam could enter any game and our offense would not miss a beat. Though we will not rotate quarterbacks, we do envision using Sam’s unique athletic skill set for special situations throughout games this season. 

“I personally appreciate how both men handled this competition with great maturity and comradery [sic]. After sharing the news with them today, both showed tremendous class and integrity.  It is a great reflection of both men’s character.  We are very fortunate to have them on our football team. I look forward to watching both have highly successful football careers here at USC.”

Browne was given the news earlier today during a meeting that occurred around 2:30 p.m.

“I was thrilled when Coach Helton gave me the news,” Browne said in the statement. “It was a moment of realization that hard work and staying the course paid off for me. I feel like I have put in the work necessary to earn the starting position and I look forward to leading this team to championships. Sam is a heck of a player and he pushed me to the final day of camp.  We are good friends and I have no doubt he will have a great career at USC.”

Browne waited behind Cody Kessler for three years after being the nation’s top quarterback and the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2012 when he threw for 4,529 yards and 49 touchdowns at Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline. 

During his time at USC, Browne has completed 11-of-19 passes for 143 yards in his USC career, including 8-of-12 for 113 yards in mop-up duty last season. He also won USC’s Bob Chandler Award, which is given each year to the underclassman with outstanding athletic ability, academic achievement and character. He also won an award in 2014 as the Co-Lifter of the Year.

“Very hard," Helton said Friday of making the decision and having to tell the players. "It’s rare when you recruit them yourself when you’re the quarterbacks coach. You sit in their homes and you raise them. Then you have to be able to tell them this is where we’re at.”

If things go well for USC, Darnold will have to follow Browne's path. Darnold redshirted as a true freshman last season and was named USC’s Offensive Service Team Player of the Year. As a senior at San Clemente High in 2014, Darnold threw for 2,996 yards with 39 touchdowns and ran for another 785 yards and 13 scores. 

“I was disappointed in the outcome but confident in Coach Helton’s decision," Darnold said. "Coach spent lots of time watching the film and making his evaluation.  I am proud of the performance I gave during practices and I felt that I made huge strides in terms of leadership.  I will continue to work hard and prepare as if I’m the starter, so I will be ready when my name is called.  I’m proud of Max for what he has done and how he competed.  The competition made us both better.  I have no desire to leave USC, this is the place for me.”

With the announcement, expect Browne to be given an opportunity to prove himself over a series of games rather than it being a game-by-game decision.

"I've always thought that you give the opportunity to the quarterback to show what he can do," Helton said Friday. "Hopefully that is multiple games, hopefully it's seasons. That's usually when things are going good. I never want a guy to be looking over his back all the time, like this series if I don't do good I'm out. I think that puts undue stress on a kid.

"There's two reasons that a quarterback gets pulled -- one by injury or two by a lack of production over a period of time. Not just one game or a series, but giving him the opportunity to perform over time."

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