San Clemente’s Bradford starts at USC

The decision to promote Sam Darnold over Max Browne for the starting quarterback position at USC might surprise some people, or at least those that haven’t been paying close attention to the latest college football lines.

The freshman, who is a graduate of San Clemente High, will lead the Trojans as their starting quarterback at Utah. Browne, who is from Washington, is losing his position after just three games, for reasons that make a lot of sense for USC head coach Clay Helton.

San Clemente's Sam Darnold celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Capistrano Valley two seasons ago. Photo: Patrick Takkinen/

San Clemente’s Sam Darnold celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Capistrano Valley two seasons ago. Photo: Patrick Takkinen/

Helton made the announcement on Monday after practice. Browne was probably a little surprised to learn about this decision, seeing as Helton chose him over Darnold for the starting position during the summer training camp.

Helton has said that the decision made sense at the moment. Browne, a redshirt junior, has failed to manifest the spark that Helton expected. He only scored one touchdown in two games against Alabama and Stanford, games that the team lost.

Trojan fans have every reason to be worried. This might be the worst scoring drought ever to plague them against Power Five opposition, at least for a few years. To be specific, it’s since USC lost to California and Arizona State in 1999 after being held to two offensive touchdowns.

Browne only had two touchdown passes and two interceptions in his first three games starting for the team. Not that Helton is completely discounting Max, or at the very least, he hasn’t said anything to the media to suggest that he has lost hope in Max’s ability.

In fact, Helton has been heard saying that he still hopes Max can deliver on the talent and promise everyone glimpsed during camp in the summer. Even after watching him play in the last three games, Helton believes that there is more than meets the eye to the young athlete.

The idea of changing quarterbacks wasn’t as sudden as some people might have assumed. The thought first occurred to the coach on the journey back from the Bay Area. In fact, Helton spent Sunday evening ruminating on the issue, this while reviewing game film.

Darnold and Browne learned about the change on Sunday night, Helton updating the rest of the team on Monday morning.

It has been argued that Helton might be using Browne as a scapegoat, though this seems unlikely. Helton has pretty much rejected the notion that the Trojans’ losing streak should be blamed on Browne’s failures.

As far as Helton is concerned, Max did his best and performed his duties honorably in each and every game. Darnold has some experience on the field, having played intermittently this season. Darnold shines primarily because of his talent.

Helton probably promoted Sam to the starting position because his mobility could help the team immensely during the Friday game. Darnold was obviously stoked to start for USC, though he was not so callous as to ignore Browne’s position, especially considering their friendship.

On the other side of the field, meanwhile, will be another former Southern California high school star, Troy Williams from Narbonne of Harbor City, starting at quarterback for the Utes.

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