After a year and a half of a quarterback competition that was too close to call, the USC Trojans have finally picked redshirt freshman Max Wittek as the backup to Matt Barkley.
Wittek narrowly won the spot over fellow redshirt freshman Cody Kessler. Wittek is a product of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, the same high school where Barkley and Matt Leinart played prior to USC.
Wittek and Kessler have battled for the job since enrolling at USC in January of last year. Kessler had a slight edge early on and would have backed up Barkley last season if necessary, but both quarterbacks were able to redshirt in 2011.
Kessler is consistent and would have been trusted to take care of the football if he’d needed to play as a freshman. Wittek has a bigger arm and more big play potential, but he also takes more risks and has thrown more interceptions (though Barkley threw more than either during fall).
At the beginning of the preseason camp, Kiffin said he would name a backup by the beginning of the season in order to make in-season practice reps most effective.
As Wittek and Kessler continued to progress and compete during camp, the coach told the media he could see situations in which both quarterbacks played. Those situations, hopefully, will come during the fourth quarter of USC wins.
Kiffin said there wasn’t a single factor that elevated Wittek to the number two spot, and he has insisted throughout the preseason that the team would be comfortable starting either of the talented quarterbacks.
“We feel very confident about both guys; they can both run our offense, really,” he said.
“There’s not much difference at all between them, and in the end … somebody had to be No. 2, so Max is No. 2. Hopefully we’ll be in a situation or at a point this year, or a couple of times, where both of them get action – that would be ideal for us.”
Kiffin also emphasized that the current order will have no bearing on who will take over the starting job in 2013 after Barkley graduates.
Beginning this spring, Wittek and Kessler will be in a three-way battle with incoming freshman Max Browne to determine the Trojans’ next starter.