USC quarterback Max Browne tries to work himself into starter equation

Redshirt freshman quarterback Max Browne is hoping to challenge for the starting job at USC.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

Max Browne worked out the calculations long before he arrived at USC.

Cody Kessler and Max Wittek would be third-year sophomore quarterbacks, with three seasons of eligibility remaining, when Browne enrolled in January 2013.

Browne correctly surmised only one of the two would be around for the 2014 season.

In January, after Kessler started every game and led the Trojans to a 10-4 record, Wittek decided to look for opportunity elsewhere. He is not participating in spring practice and will transfer after graduating in May.


“Anyone that really knows football, to be honest, knew that one of those guys was going to get the job and, just the way the business works, one of them was going to have to leave,” Browne said Saturday.

Wittek’s departure elevated Browne to No. 2.

This spring he is attempting to challenge Kessler for the starting job, though it remains to be seen whether it becomes a legitimate competition.

Kessler passed for 20 touchdowns, with seven interceptions, last season. He finished with a four-touchdown performance in the Trojans’ Las Vegas Bowl victory over Fresno State — USC’s first opponent in the upcoming season.

New Coach Steve Sarkisian has said all jobs are open, including quarterback. And Kessler and Browne appear to have received close to the same number of snaps during the first three spring workouts.

Freshman Jalen Greene also has impressed, displaying a quick left-handed release.

Sarkisian said Saturday that in his years as a college assistant at USC and head coach at Washington, he never went into a summer without a designated starting quarterback.

He stopped short of guaranteeing that streak would continue but said “that would be ideal if it gets to that point.”


There is no deadline.

“When it feels right, when it looks right,” he said, “I’ll probably let it sit one more practice just to make sure and then we’ll make a decision.”

Browne, a redshirt freshman, is doing all he can to catch up to the experienced Kessler. Both are learning the new, no-huddle system Sarkisian brought from Washington.

The Trojans have next week off for spring break. When they return, they will have 12 practices remaining.

Is that enough time for Browne?

“I’d say so, but we’ll see,” he said, “It’s Coach Sark’s decision.”

Break time

Former Trojans coach Pete Carroll annually cautioned players about working out on their own during breaks, fearing they might suffer injuries in unsupervised settings.

But with the Trojans running a high-speed offense and practices, Sarkisian expects players to maintain their fitness so they will be prepared when workouts resume March 25.

“They’ll need to do some conditioning,” he said. “It will be too hard … if they don’t.”

Sarkisian gave coaches the same advice.

“I told them to make sure they’re running over spring break too,” he said. “They’ve got to stay in shape for these practices — not just the players.”

Quick hits

The Trojans practiced in shoulder pads for the first time. Sarkisian said the Trojans would repeat their first three practices when they return after spring break.… Offensive lineman Zach Banner, who is coming back from hip surgeries, is working with the second-team offense at left tackle…. Tailback Justin Davis, who is recovering from ankle surgery, is doing some drills but said trainers will not allow him to participate in live practice situations until training camp.

Twitter: @latimesklein