Max Browne stepped out of USC's locker room after the Trojans' win over Colorado last week, and there were no television cameras waiting for him. There were no reporters queued up to interview him. He retrieved some food and strode away.
"It's kind of the world I live in now, I guess," Browne said after USC's practice Wednesday. "It's different. I'm not going to say it's easy or I'm getting used to it. I'm not. It's tough for sure."
Since he was replaced as starting quarterback by Sam Darnold three weeks ago, Browne has been in limbo. He has worked in practice each day, in the event Darnold leaves a game because of an injury. He did throw two passes at the end of the game in a blowout win against Arizona State. Meanwhile, he is preparing for the day in the near future when he'll decide where to play his final season of eligibility.
Though he danced around uttering the word "transfer," he has all but acknowledged he will be seeking playing time elsewhere next season.
"I'm sure I'll dive into that a little more with each week," he said.
Coach Clay Helton's decision to bench Browne was a controversial one. Browne had played capably in three games, including two against Alabama and Stanford. He completed 55 of 87 passes with two touchdowns and two passes intercepted.
Darnold's play in his first three starts has vindicated the switch, but it still left unanswered: Why didn't Helton go with Darnold earlier?
Helton has said he doesn't regret his decision. He believed Browne was the right person for the job and he wanted to give him an opportunity to play.
Browne said he doesn't know what he would've done had he known he were on such a short leash. Browne, a redshirt junior who is enrolled in graduate school, could've potentially transferred before the season began.
"I don't know. It's tough," he said. "Because I think if we connect on a few of those throws in the Stanford game, we're 2-1, it might be a different scenario."
He said that he "wouldn't have changed anything" about staying at USC for as long as he has.
"I felt like I made the right decision with the information I had at each point in the way," he said.
But when asked if he wished he were told that in the summer that he wouldn't be the starter, Browne paused, mulling an answer for nine seconds.
"I mean," he said, "I want to play. I had an opportunity to. I wish it would've worked out better. I don't know. I'll just leave it at that."
Debate over Khalil Tate's weight
Arizona hasn't named a starting quarterback for Saturday's game, but the favorite may be Khalil Tate, a freshman from Gardena Serra High. USC's scouting report should be robust: the Trojans have nine players who attended Serra.
Freshman defensive end Oluwole Betiku Jr., who graduated in Tate's class, tried to tell the defense about Tate, but he was met with skepticism.
"Wole thought he was 250 pounds," safety Chris Hawkins said, laughing. "I don't know how much of that we can really read into."
Tate is listed at 212 pounds.
Betiku said he didn't want to underestimate.
"Just so they get ready," Betiku said. "He's a really strong dude. I've seen him run a lot of guys over."
Right tackle Zach Banner (ankle sprain) participated in practice and was not significantly limited. … Linebacker Michael Hutchings (partially separated shoulder) practiced.