According to new head coach Steve Sarkisian, Cody Kessler and Max Wittek will battle each other once again for the starting quarterback job come spring ball.
Since taking over as the head coach of USC football, Steve Sarkisian has made clear his intentions to implement a no-huddle offense in Troy.
That decision has excited many on the football team, according to Sarkisian, who spoke candidly with fans last week about his plans for the offense. With the change to the offense, Sarkisian has said that all positions will be open come spring ball.
And this has led to an interesting development in Troy.
Backup quarterback Max Wittek said on Tuesday that he will not transfer from USC, according to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News:
Max Wittek told teammates he decided to stay after Steve Sarkisian told him the quarterback position would be open #USC— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) December 10, 2013
After meeting with Sarkisian and discussing how truly "open" positions would be, Wittek evidently feels confident enough in his chances to stick around at least one more semester and vie for the starting job.
Wittek, Cody Kessler and Max Browne spoke with Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times about the makeover the offense is about to get, and all three expressed positive thoughts about the change.
Incumbent starter Kessler could do particularly well with a no-huddle look at USC and said that he's "very excited" to quarterback a spread offense, which he also ran at Bakersfield's Centennial High.
Similarly, freshman Max Browne could have success in Sarkisian's offense based on prior experience with spread offenses. He, too, could legitimately compete for the starting job:
Freshman quarterback Max Browne said the new offense was similar to the one he ran at Skyline High in Sammamish, Wash., where he operated almost exclusively from the shotgun and pistol formations.
"I think it suits me and all of the quarterbacks," Browne said.
And then there's Wittek, the prototypical pro-style quarterback who has a cannon for an arm, but isn't particularly fluid in the pocket. Still, he told Klein he thinks he can fit into the new scheme: "I think I can move around well and do what's asked."
But given his limitations, is Wittek making the right choice in sticking around?
Kessler has left a reasonably good taste in the mouths of USC fans after his growth and development in 2013. He is the better suited of the two redshirt sophomore quarterbacks to excel in an offense with spread elements. This season, we saw Kessler show agility in and outside the pocket, which suggests that he has the skill set to run Sarkisian's offense.
In Wittek's limited starts at the end of the 2012, we didn't see anything resembling mobility. On the contrary, he is pretty statuesque in the pocket, typical of conventional, pro-style quarterbacks. Both Kessler and Browne have experience in a spread offense, and thus will face a more gradual learning curve come the spring.
Since Kessler got the job back in August, there has been speculation about Wittek transferring. He was asked about it during fall camp, and punted away the question evasively:
Kessler emphatically said he would not transfer if he lost the QB derby. Wittek sort of politely punted the same question— Rich Hammond (@RegisterUSC) August 4, 2013
It's obviously in USC's best interest to keep Wittek in the ranks, as Browne would be the only reserve quarterback available without him. Then again, it might be in his best interest to seek greener pastures with a different program, one where he is able to put his many talents on display.
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Of course, if Wittek were to lose out in the spring, he would still have plenty of time to transfer before fall camps begin.
However the chips ultimately lay, Sarkisian will have his work cut out early when he starts coaching duties next spring, and he must make decisions that will have lasting implications on at least one major position.