Browne out of USC's three-headed quarterback race

Freshman Max Browne is out of QB hunt, leaving Cody Kessler and Max Wittek to fight for USC starting job.

LOS ANGELES -- Then, there were two.

The three-headed monster of a quarterback battle at USC is down to two, coach Lane Kiffin announced on Sunday.

The competition will continue with Cody Kessler and Max Wittek while freshman Max Browne is no longer in contention.

"Max Browne has played really well, performed really well," Kiffin said. "For guys coming in (he) is probably as advanced as any guy that we've had this quick, but still there is a difference between those two and him being able to (handle) the speed of the game right now."

The announcement appeared to be imminent. In their first scrimmage at the Coliseum last week, although Browne did see some reps with the first team, he didn't take a snap until the second half. Kessler and Wittek had three possessions each in the first half.

The last time there was a quarterback battle at USC there was a freshman, Matt Barkley, who emerged as the leader and held onto the position for four years.

That won't be the case with Browne. Kiffin said he spoke "at length" with the freshman about the decision and says Browne was a "professional" in how he took the news.

Kiffin went on to say Browne being out of the competition doesn't mean that he's the No. 3 quarterback or that he will redshirt this upcoming season.

"He's got to be ready to play," Kiffin said. "And he'll prepare like that."  

The quarterback competition will open again in the spring, Kiffin says, regardless of how well the starter does in 2013.

Wittek started the final two games of last season for the Trojans after Barkley went down with a season-ending shoulder injury. However, Kessler took the majority of the first team reps in the Trojans' first scrimmage of fall. Kiffin says there isn't much to read into that and when the Trojans return to the Coliseum for their second scrimmage of the fall later this week, the amount of first team reps will likely flip.

USC opens the 2013 season on Aug. 29 at Hawaii.

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