USC spring preview: Quarterback competition begins

Quarterbacks

Coach: Tyson Helton

Key departure: Cody Kessler

Returners: Fourth-year junior Max Browne, third-year sophomore Jalen Greene and redshirt freshman Sam Darnold

Newcomer: Freshman Matt Fink

Outlook: Coach Clay Helton’s younger brother, Tyson, will take over as quarterbacks coach after holding the same post at Western Kentucky for the past two seasons, and he’ll be tasked immediately with helping determine a new starter.

Cody Kessler, a three-year starter, is out after he exhausted his eligibility following USC’s 8-6 season in 2015.

Fourth-year junior Max Browne will enter spring practice as the front-runner, keeping in mind that Browne spent the last three seasons coached at the position by Clay Helton. 

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Browne was Kessler’s backup the last two seasons, but has limited experience. Last season, he completed eight of 12 passes for 113 yards in three games.

Sam Darnold, a redshirt freshman from San Clemente, looked impressive in his limited reps during fall camp last season and will challenge Browne for the spot.

Darnold, 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, completed deep passes with apparent ease and also had the ability to run the football.

Third-year sophomore Jalen Greene was recruited to play quarterback but spent last season as a receiver — and trick-play maker. Clay Helton recently said that Greene would get another shot at quarterback this spring.

Last season, Greene caught 10 passes for 104 yards, but more impressively, completed three of four passes for 127 yards and a touchdown — always on a double-pass play initiated by Kessler.

Freshman Matt Fink began courses in January as midyear enrollee in the 2016 recruiting class. He passed for 1,258 yards and 15 touchdowns, with five interceptions, his senior season at Glendora High and also rushed for 1,106 yards and 17 touchdowns in 180 carries.

Fink should be considered a candidate to redshirt. 

Clay Helton said he would probably not name a starter until the end of spring or in the fall.

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