Browne a Key Addition for Pitt
By BJ Bennett
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Squarely in the middle of the Panthers' offensive transition is new quarterback Max Browne.
One year after finishing second in the ACC with 40.9 points per game, and beating the likes of national champion Clemson and Big Ten champion Penn State along the way, Pittsburgh is going through an offensive overhaul. Gone is offensive coordinator Matt Canada and quarterback Nathan Peterman, running back James Conner, tight end Scott Orndoff and offensive linemen Adam Bisnowaty and Dorian Johnson, all of whom are set to be drafted. Squarely in the middle of the transition is new Panther Max Browne.
If the name sounds familiar, it should. The former five-star recruit from the state of Washington comes east as a graduate transfer from Southern Cal. Browne completed 69-of-112 passes for 650 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in his career with the Trojans, competing, for three different head coaches, with the likes of Cody Kessler and Sam Darnold. A veteran with some big game experience, Browne has one season of eligibility remaining.
Browne, back in September, started the season atop the Southern Cal depth chart; this March, he is one of the centerpieces of new-look Pittsburgh attack. He and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, most recently of Indiana, are using spring practice to develop chemistry and comfortability as the Panthers reconfigure things offensively.
At 6'5'', the raw talent is there for Browne. He was ranked by multiple recruiting services as the premier pro-style passer in the class of 2013, was twice named Washington's Gatorade Player of the Year and won two class AAAA state championships. In fact, Browne was awarded the Hall Trophy as the U.S. Army National Player of the Year as a senior. He, choosing the Trojans over the likes of Alabama and Washington, went on to play in 18 career games at Southern Cal.
If Browne, or anyone else, needs confirmation that a fresh start can work, Peterman, Browne's predecessor assuming he is the starter, stands as a prime example. After limited opportunities at Tennessee, Peterman came to Pittsburgh and threw 47 touchdown passes and won 16 regular season games in two years. He led the ACC and ranked in the top eight nationally in passer rating last fall. Peterman's next stop is the NFL.
Though some obvious retooling must be done, the Panthers have returning production in the likes of the dynamic Quadree Henderson, big-play Jester Weah and former 1,000-yard rusher Qadree Ollison. Browne, under Watson's guidance, will be looked to for consistency in the pocket and as a passer who can make all of the throws. This spring, Browne is working to earn the confidence of his new teammates and coaches.
Looking ahead, the start of the season will be a challenging one as Pittsburgh will open versus Youngstown State, play at Penn State, host Oklahoma State and travel to Georgia Tech in the first month of the season; those opponents combined to win 42 games a year ago. Expectations, though, remain high for the Panthers. With another chance to lead a team, Browne is a big part of Pittsburgh's potential.