LOS ANGELES — Steve Sarkisian is nearing a decision.
After the Trojans wrapped up practice 10 of 15 of the spring on Tuesday, USC’s first-year head football coach announced that he could name a starting quarterback by the end of spring practices.
"I would suspect we’ll do it before the end of spring," Sarkisian said of the decision. "When I have a pretty good feeling of it, I’m going to let it sit for a little bit. I feel like that’s always been a good way to go about it and just, maybe, watch for a little bit as if it were that way and what it feels like."
The news comes on what Sarkisian called a "hard day" for the quarterbacks. For the first time, the offense worked on operating under a silent count and had their struggles with it, in addition to being dominated by the defense and not allowing any quarterback to have a good showing.
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The favorite is Cody Kessler, a returning starter who started all 14 games for USC last season. Kessler is being pushed by heralded redshirt freshman Max Browne, who was the No. 1 quarterback in the nation coming out of Skyline High School in 2013.
Kessler, like Browne, is competing to be the starter for the second straight season. Browne had an outside shot of winning the job, having to endure an uphill battle with Kessler and Max Wittek both having had an intense headstart in grasping former head coach Lane Kiffin’s offense.
The competition was a little more even this time around with the exception of Kessler having been the starter all of last season while Browne was on the sideline signaling plays.
The actual game experience of Kessler is tough to duplicate and could be even tougher to compete with if you’re Browne.
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"That’s a piece of the puzzle," Sarkisian said of Kessler’s game experience. "It’s not the entire puzzle, just a piece of the puzzle.
"I think you compete with it by just doing your job and everything you’re asked to do and both of those guys are doing a great job. They’re working their tails off."
Upon hearing the news that Sarkisian was nearing a decision on who the starter would be, Kessler was admittedly a lot more relaxed than he was last year hearing the same news.
"Last year I was thinking the wrong things," he said. "I was trying too hard at practice, trying to do the right thing, trying to be perfect, comparing myself to what (former USC quarterback) Max (Wittek) did and what I did and that got in my head a little bit."