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USC's Cody Kessler wins starting quarterback battle

Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press
Cody Kessler beat out redshirt freshman Max Browne to remain USC's starting quarterback.

LOS ANGELES -- New USC head coach Steve Sarkisian has not made any drastic changes to the program since being hired, and that apparently will include whom the Trojans starting quarterback will be.

After a dozen or so spring practices that featured a heated battle between incumbent starter Cody Kessler and redshirt freshman Max Browne, Sarkisian tapped Kessler as the starting quarterback for the foreseeable future.

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"If we're playing Saturday, Cody Kessler is our starter," Sarkisian told College Football 24/7. "That said, Max Browne won't give up competing. That's who he is. He's going to accept the fact that if we're playing Saturday, Cody is going to be the starter. We're going to go into fall camp, and Max will keep pushing Cody. Ultimately, that should make Cody better, and if it doesn't, Max will surpass him."

Kessler had his best game last season when he outdueled potential first-round pick Derek Carr in USC's Las Vegas Bowl win over Fresno State, earning game MVP honors. Kessler started all of last year and tossed 20 touchdowns while throwing for 2,968 yards en route to a surprising 10-4 record.

He beat out Browne, a five-star quarterback out of high school whom Sarkisian recruited heavily when he was the coach at Washington. A 6-foot-5, 215-pounder, Browne was the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year as a senior and is more of a traditional dropback quarterback than the more mobile Kessler.

Both players adjusted well as the Trojans installed a new up-tempo pro-style attack that Sarkisian brought with him from his previous stop. Although many of the plays and concepts are the same as they were under former coach Lane Kiffin, it did take both players most of the spring to show they have what it takes to win games for the team.

"Coach [Clay] Helton has done a nice job of teaching the system to them," Sarkisian said. "I'm starting to learn the things they do well, and the things they don't do as great. We can start to tailor things more toward them and start game-planning to the individual player. They're both really talented guys, and we'll win plenty of games with either of them."

Freshman quarterback Jalen Greene enrolled early for spring practice and showed off a quick release but will probably wind up as a candidate to redshirt in 2014. Former Trojans quarterback Max Wittek is sitting out the spring and will graduate in May before transferring to another school.

The Trojans will hold their annual spring game Saturday at the Coliseum. USC opens with Fresno State in late August before trips to defending Pac-12 champion Stanford and a non-conference game against Boston College.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.

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