While 20 recruits were committing to Texas on National Signing Day, reports emerged that former USC quarterback Max Wittek is targeting the Longhorns as his transfer destination. Even if he never plays a down, adding a player with his experience would be great for the team's depth chart.
Last week, the redshirt sophomore announced that he would forgo spring practice and graduate in the spring. Under the NCAA's graduate transfer rule, Wittek will be immediately eligible to play two more seasons for whichever program he elects.
After he lost the starting job to Cody Kessler, this should come as no surprise to USC or its fans. Wittek was a long shot to beat out both Kessler and redshirt freshman Max Browne for the starting job, and the Trojans have another 5-star recruit coming next season in Ricky Town. Wittek's career 3:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio just wasn't going to stack up in the long run.
But, just as Wittek can't be counted on as a savior, he can't be written off as useless, either. In fact, he would bring both some much-needed stability and competition to Texas' quarterback position.
Currently, David Ash and Tyrone Swoopes are slated to compete for the No. 1 job this spring. Ash brings the experience with 21 starts under his belt and a 2-0 record in bowl games. Swoopes has appeared in just six games, but boasts incredible potential at 6'4" and 245 pounds. In choosing between these two, the Longhorns could be in far worse shape.
However, neither is the definition of a sure thing. Ash has thrown multiple interceptions seven times in his career, and spent nearly all of the 2013 season recovering from a concussion. Even if he finds consistency, the fact that Ash has already sustained such a severe and complicated injury makes him difficult to depend on.
Meanwhile, Swoopes is more raw talent than anything else. His size, arm and athleticism all suggest an incredible talent, but he remains far from being a finished product. There are no guarantees his second offseason with the program will bring him that success.
Unless Bram Kohlhausen walks on, the team's emergency quarterback behind Ash and Swoopes would be 4-star recruit Jerrod Heard. As good a prospect as the nation's top dual-threat is, he should never see the field as a true freshman. At 190 pounds, he needs time to add weight to prepare for college-level hits and learn the Longhorn offense. Given that he does not arrive on campus until June, rushing him to do both before September is an unreasonable proposition.
Spoke with Bram Kohlhausen. He said there’s mutual interest with Texas but he hasn’t agreed to walk on.— Max Olson (@max_olson) February 4, 2014
By adding a experienced player like Wittek, hurrying Heard onto the field becomes a non-issue. At the absolute worst, he gives Texas a player that has big-game experience playing and can make the most of the required throws. How many teams can say that about their third-string quarterback?
There is also the possibility that Wittek arrives and competes for the starting job. In spite of his failures at USC, this is still a 6'4" quarterback with a big arm that has run a similar scheme to Texas'. Bringing him on would at least push Ash and Swoopes, helping separate the two before the season begins.
David Ash would be the presumed frontrunner for the QB job at Texas, but Wittek would make things REAL interesting.— Ben Kercheval (@BenKercheval) February 5, 2014
It's unlikely that Wittek ever starts for the 'Horns, but the added competition could only help the beleaguered position. Considering that, and the team's need for depth at quarterback, inserting him into the depth chart is a win-win for the program.
And should Wittek decide he doesn't like his chances of beating out Ash or Swoopes, pursuing another transfer or JUCO quarterback should be the team's next logical step.