As true freshman quarterback Max Browne learns the nuances of the college game, his head coach, Lane Kiffin, continues to heap praise on the precocious, young gunslinger.
And with good reason, too. Guys like Browne do not come around all that often and when the Scout.com 5-star prospect gave his pledge to the Trojans last year, it signaled that USC’s future at the position would be solid for years to come.
So far, Browne has been as good as advertised, and while he may not see the field of play with any regularity in 2013, there is little doubt he will be front and center leading the Trojans sooner rather than later.
However, when discussing the future with Browne, this is a story of many “ifs” and “maybes.”
Can Browne live up to the hype, and if he does, will USC be able to surround him with players that can find success this year and beyond?
And perhaps the biggest question of all is if the Trojans struggle this season, will his head coach still be around to witness a renaissance under young Max?
If Lane Kiffin does stick around, it will be because he guided USC to a rebound year in 2013.
It is with this assumption that we now look at how Max Browne can succeed while he plies his trade at USC.
A successful season this year will naturally help with recruiting, which is nearing the end of a three-year run of sanctions that cost the Trojans' 30 scholarships.
Depending on how the offensive line performs in 2013, the first order of business to ensure success for Browne is to bolster the “big uglies” who protect him.
But even if the O-line does well this year, USC loses the entire right side of that line with the graduation of guard John Martinez and tackle Kevin Graf.
The Trojans do have some talented players waiting to step in but it remains to be seen if guys like Jordan Simmons, Zach Banner, Chad Wheeler and Cyrus Hobbi can get the job done.
So recruiting offensive linemen for the future will help Browne down the road to be certain.
But even if Browne receives a boatload of protection, he still has to find receivers to throw the ball to, and it is almost guaranteed that one of those guys won’t be named Marqise Lee.
Lee, USC’s sole All-American in 2012, almost certainly will be gone to the NFL by the time Browne lines up under center with any regularity.
This is not to say the cupboard will be empty, however.
True sophomore Nelson Agholor has shown all of the characteristics of a great one, and junior George Farmer Jr. along with talented receivers Victor Blackwell, Darreus Rogers and incoming freshman Steven Mitchell will all still be around.
And while either one or both of USC’s talented tight ends, Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer, may be gone after this year, Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick will be there to take their place.
So far, so good. But a championship team is not built on the pass alone, so who will be there to take pressure off of the passing game by toting the rock?
Here the Trojans are looking good with running backs Tre Madden, Buck Allen, Justin Davis and incoming freshman Ty Isaac all waiting to make their marks for the Trojans during the “Browne era.”
When looking at the offensive side of the ball in 2014 and beyond, the talent surrounding Browne certainly appears to have the capability of delivering a championship to the Trojans.
However, it takes a complete effort on both sides of the ball to win championships, and this means the defense will have to be stout win a championship (or two) with Max Browne running the show.
To that end, USC will have to replace both defensive ends (Devon Kennard and Morgan Breslin) after 2013.
And on the interior of the line, George Uko may go pro if he has a memorable season this year as many expect.
To accommodate these expected losses, the Trojans will make the defense their primary area of focus in recruiting this year.
If they are successful in that endeavor and if the guys they sign can contribute in a timely manner, USC can return to the kind of defense that was a hallmark of the glory days of Pete Carroll.
Meanwhile, a questionable secondary in 2013 will have to find a way to become a strength in 2014, or it won’t matter how good the front seven is.
But perhaps the biggest concern of all is whether or not USC will have the depth needed to field a contender during the Max Browne years, and it is in this area that the greatest obstacle will be encountered.
Despite the Trojans having put their scholarship restrictions behind them by the time Browne takes the reigns, USC will need time to stock quality players for rotation purposes.
For certain, 2014 will require the blessings of good health to their front line players because depth will not be a strong point for the Trojans that year.
So in answering the question of whether or not Max Browne can win any championships for the Trojans during his stay, the answer is a qualified “yes” but probably not until 2015 or so.
A better question is whether his head coach will be around to see it.
And that is another story altogether.
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