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After stressful competition, USC QB Max Browne moving forward

LOS ANGELES -- Max Browne walked into coach USC coach Clay Helton’s office Saturday and received the news he expected: After nearly four years on campus, he was officially the Trojans’ starting quarterback.

Once Browne walked in, Helton got straight to the point.

“We’re going to go with you,” said Browne, recalling what Helton told him. “'’We’re going to hang our hat on your leadership and presence and experience.’ I made some big plays in camp, but then he also tipped his cap to Sam [Darnold], rightfully so. Pushed me to the wire, great player, going to have a lot of success here.

“I heard the news and it was like, ‘Let’s go.’”

While Browne’s appointment as the team’s starter didn’t surprise him -- nor many others -- it did provide a healthy amount of relief. The competition had been gnawing at him for months. The entire direction of his life hung in the balance of what Helton would ultimately decide and he could only do so much to influence it.

“Emotionally, I felt like I played an entire season, to be honest, with the entire competition,” he said.

The first people he reached out to were his three brothers. He delivered the news in a group text so they would all find out at the same time and soon after told his parents and a few close friends from home in Washington. He got just enough time off over the weekend to catch his breath and prepare for a different kind of stress -- a unique kind that comes from watching Alabama’s defense on tape knowing the Crimson Tide is your next opponent.

In practice Tuesday, Browne was poised and in control. With the first-team reps skewed heavily in his favor, Browne looked every bit deserving of what became official in Helton’s office.

“Definitely felt normal,” he said.

Definitely a good sign for USC.

And as professionally as Browne has handled himself during the past several months, Darnold has been his equal.

“Max prepared as well as I’ve seen anyone prepare for practice every single practice in the fall,” Darnold said. “Yeah, credit to him. He beat me out. I’m confident in Coach Helton’s decision in Max being the starter.”

Darnold will get his chances, too. Helton chose not to go into details of exactly how the athletic redshirt freshman will be used, but both Browne and Darnold mentioned short-yardage situations -- without giving much else away -- as being the most obvious opportunities that would make sense for Darnold.