Teammate says he’s ‘100% confident’ in Max Browne, recently named starting QB

USC quarterback Max Browne looks to downfield for a receiver.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Max Browne huddled USC’s offense on the sideline during Tuesday’s practice, just as he will Sept. 3 against Alabama. He barked instructions, clapped and then jogged to the line of scrimmage. His teammates followed.

Tuesday was Browne’s first practice since he received the news for which he waited three years.

Phones began buzzing on USC’s campus Saturday afternoon to spread the message. Browne had been named the starting quarterback.


Then came a warning.

“Don’t tweet anything about it,” running back Justin Davis said.

The players heeded the coaching staff’s request. Before Tuesday, no player had reacted publicly to the result of the quarterback competition. The team had two days to ruminate before offering thoughts.

“My thoughts on the quarterback race, it was kind of either-or,” Davis said. “Any of the quarterbacks, Sam [Darnold] or Max, could’ve been good.”

Davis said he was “100% confident” in Browne.

Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is likely to connect with Browne more often than any other player, said he “was happy with it.”

“Max can throw it,” Smith-Schuster said. “It will be good to just get going with the guy we know will be our starter and start building that chemistry.”

Smith-Schuster had tried, unsuccessfully, to suss out which quarterback was leading. He wanted to begin working with the starter outside of practice to get in sync. But he said he thought two weeks offered enough time for the team to jell.

“We have time before Alabama to get better,” Smith-Schuster said. “Today was just our first day of that.”

Speaking publicly for the first time since making his decision, Coach Clay Helton praised both quarterbacks. He said Darnold was disappointed but remained confident.

“You would be worried if he wasn’t disappointed,” Helton said.

According to Helton, Darnold said he would prove that he was a “great player.”

“And I said, ‘Buddy, you’re going to be a great player,’ ” Helton said. “There’s no question in my mind.”


Wheeler out of boot

Helton remained optimistic that left tackle Chad Wheeler, who missed most of training camp with plantar fasciitis, will return before the season opener.

Wheeler received a platelet-rich plasma injection last week. Doctors expect it to speed his recovery, but it made Tuesday his earliest possible return date.

Wheeler was no longer wearing a boot on his foot Tuesday, but he sat out of practice again, and Helton said he wouldn’t be reevaluated until Thursday.

Helton said Wheeler had progressed enough to display some movement on his foot.

“It’s a great sign,” Helton said. “Hoping to get him some work on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and then hopefully be ready for next week.”

Quick hits


Wheeler and safety John Plattenburg (concussion protocol) aside, Helton said there were no injuries. ... Safety Marvell Tell III (hamstring) returned to practice and spent much of it working with a trainer. … USC did not name team captains after training camp. Helton said the players would choose captains at the end of this week.

Twitter: @zhelfand