The next great QB is set to enroll at USC. Can he follow in Matt Barkley’s footsteps and start as a true freshman?

For years, USC has been known as “Tailback U,” a moniker that tends to stick, when guys like O.J. Simpson, Charles White, Marcus Allen and Reggie Bush all roll through your campus, and all roll out as Heisman Trophy winners. (And yes, I still consider Reggie Bush a “winner” even if he doesn’t “technically” have his trophy anymore)

However, if the present or immediate future is any indication, USC might soon be known as “Quarterback U.” The Trojans can boast that of the last four quarterbacks to start at the school, three (Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez) went on to be Top 10 picks, with both Palmer and Leinart taking home Heisman’s as well. Oh, and the Trojans also welcome back some guy named Matt Barkley to campus next fall, a guy you’re probably familiar with by now.

But with that said, it’s never too early to start looking ahead, and it looks like Lane Kiffin and his staff has plenty to be excited about. Even after Mr. Perfect himself, Barkley, leaves campus in the spring of 2013, the future remains surprisingly bright.

That’s because along with two highly-touted redshirt freshman battling for Barkley’s back-up job (Max Wittek and Cody Kessler), the Trojans may have gotten the biggest verbal commitment of the entire Kiffin era late last week. That came in the form of Max Browne, the top high school quarterback in the country, who committed to the Trojans late Wednesday night. With the news now a few days old, let’s have some fun, and project how Browne will fit in when he walks onto campus next fall.

First, the particulars on Browne: As we mentioned, he is the top underclassman high school quarterback in the country, having just finished up his junior year at Seattle’s Skyline High School. But while it’s one thing to say that Browne is “the best,” high school quarterback in the country, it’s quite another to see exactly what he has done in two years as a starter at Skyline. And the numbers he’s put up? Well, they’re simply disgusting.

In his two seasons as a starter, Browne has thrown for an almost unconscionable 8,216 yards and 95 touchdowns, numbers that are staggering, regardless of where you’re playing or against what level of competition. What’s maybe just as impressive is that Browne’s best season was actually as a sophomore, when he threw for 50 touchdowns and 4,182 yards. Those numbers dipped in the fall of 2011… to “only” 4,034 yards and 45 touchdowns. What a bum, huh? Browne did however lead his team to a state title as a junior however.

 

Regardless, Browne is obviously a hot commodity, and will enter USC as the highest rated quarterback at the school since Barkley graduated high school a semester early and enrolled in the spring of 2008. And immediately, the questions will start to be asked: Can Browne follow Barkley’s lead and steal the starting spot from established back-ups when he starts up at USC?

 

As you may remember, when Barkley arrived on campus, the starting quarterback position was wide open, after Mark Sanchez decided to take his talents (whatever those talents actually are) to the 2008 NFL Draft. At the time, most assumed that redshirt sophomore Aaron Corp would take over the starting spot, which he was set to do… until Barkley went ahead and stole it from him by the beginning of the following season. Barkley went on to start the Trojans opener in September 2009, and when the Trojans beat Ohio State at the Horseshoe in Week 2 (on the late, Barkley-led drive that is lshown on the video below), the Aaron Corp era was over essentially before it began. Corp transferred to Richmond at the end of that season, and Barkley has now become a 2012 Heisman front-runner and the potential No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft.

But while Barkley made history by becoming the first true freshman to ever start a season-opening game at USC, it doesn’t seem nearly as likely that Browne will follow suit. USC has two quality back-ups in redshirt freshmen Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, both of whom have dueled for Barkley’s back-up spot this spring. Each came to USC highly-acclaimed, and it assumed that whoever wins out, will be the heir apparent when Barkley abdicates his throne at USC next winter.

And to their credit, both players appear to be taking Browne’s commitment in stride.

Wittek told the Orange County-Register this week:

“I’m perfectly fine with it. Bring in everyone you can bring in.”

Kessler agreed.

“Absolutely,” Kessler said. “We came (to USC) together, so apparently we came ready to compete.”

Of course that doesn’t mean Browne will back down either.

As a matter of fact, there is one other interesting nugget on Browne worth mentioning: History shows that Browne has no problem stepping in, and replacing an acclaimed quarterback. When Browne took over the quarterbacking duties at Skyline High School, he followed in the steps of Jake Heaps, one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in the state’s high school history. Heaps went on to start at BYU for most of the last two years, before transferring to Kansas this off-season.

Whether Browne can do the same at USC remains to be seen.

But it’s safe to say that the future is quite bright.

For updates on all his articles, insights and more, be sure to follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.

About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.

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