It has been a long time since USC coaches have had to make a choice at the team’s starting quarterback position. However, following the graduation of four-year starter Matt Barkley, coach Lane Kiffin could wind up taking quite a bit longer before picking between Cody Kessler and Max Wittek.
If, that is, he makes the decision at all.
According to ESPN Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller, Kiffin could wind up allowing the competition between the two to bleed into early-season games against Hawaii, Washington State and Utah State.
“Cody Kessler made more plays this spring and was more consistent than Max Wittek, but Wittek has an arm that will make NFL scouts swoon. Coach Lane Kiffin doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to name a starter, so the competition is almost certain to go at least a week or two into fall camp. And, with a fairly forgiving early schedule, I almost wonder if Kiffin might give both guys a chance when the lights are on.”
Kessler served as the team’s primary holder on all placekicks as a redshirt freshman a year ago. He played against Colorado, hitting both of his passing attempts for nine yards.
However, when Barkley went down with a shoulder injury towards the end of the 2012 season, Kiffin turned to Wittek to take over under center, not Kessler.
As a redshirt freshman, Wittek’s first career start came in the team’s regular season finale against then-undefeated and No. 1-overall Notre Dame. He finished a decent 14-of-23 for 186 yards with 1 TD and 2 interceptions in the 22-13 loss. He started again for the injured Barkley against Georgia Tech, completing 14-of-37 passes for 107 yards with 1 TD and 3 interceptions in an embarrassing, 21-7, Sun Bowl loss.
If one manages to pull away from the other during the summer and early fall, Kiffin will most likely tab that one as Barkley’s full-time replacement. However, because they both bring different qualities to the table, such a decision may not possible to make.
How Kiffin handles this situation, and whomever of the two he selects going forward, will have a major impact on the coach’s job status moving forward.