Which School Is the Best Transfer Option for Ex-USC QB Max Wittek?

Jeff Bell@@JrayBellCorrespondent IFebruary 14, 2014

USC QB Max Wittek
USC QB Max WittekChris Carlson/Associated Press

With the recent news of ex-USC quarterback Max Wittek looking to transfer, the battle has begun over the services of the former 4-star recruit out of Mater Dei High School.

If you take a look at the most recent AP standings, which were released following Florida State's victory over Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game, one thing should stick out above all else: good quarterback play was essential to finishing in the Top 10.

You could point to teams like Michigan State and Oklahoma for not having consistency from their signal-callers throughout the year, but both team's saw outstanding play from the position in their respective bowl victories.

Some of the other quarterbacks who led their programs into the final Top 10? Jameis Winston, Nick Marshall, AJ McCarron, Marcus Mariota, Tajh Boyd and several others. In short, having a great quarterback is more important to a team's overall success than anything else.

Not all of these teams boasted great defenses, top-tier rushing attacks or dominant play on special teams. But great play at the quarterback position unites the Top 10, and for teams missing that very thing, news of Wittek's transfer opens up a whole world of possibilities.

For the purposes of this piece, we're not going to go down the list and look at the pros and cons of every college football program in terms of how Wittek might fit in. But, according to ESPN's Joe Schad, the gunslinger has reportedly decided to visit Texas, Louisville and Hawaii.

Because he plans to graduate in the spring, he'll be able to compete for playing time immediately as opposed to sitting out a year, which makes his mid-career recruitment all the more exciting. The first question in the saga is an obvious one: Where will he end up?

Might Wittek end up playing for new Texas coach Charlie Strong?
Might Wittek end up playing for new Texas coach Charlie Strong?Eric Gay/Associated Press

But that's entirely up to Wittek, and you'll likely see predictions that range from reasonable to downright crazy. We're wondering which school would be the best fit for him, given his talents, his future goals and how he might gel into a particular offense. The ex-Trojan told the Los Angeles Times (via ESPN), playing time was a top priority in his decision to transfer:

I had talked to coach [Steve Sarkisian] a couple of times. What it really came down to was a feel for me...Getting my degree from such a great university will mean a lot, and ultimately, allowing me to play right away with two years to play was the best way to go.


Texas Longhorns: Okay Fit

The biggest name of the three schools listed is obviously Texas, but do the Longhorns really provide the best fit?

New offensive coordinator Joe Wickline should bring some pizzazz to a unit that has often been bland and boring. As one of the engineers of Oklahoma State's scoring machine in recent years, fans in burnt orange should expect more excitement from that side of the ball. In terms of style of offense, Wittek seems like a natural fit, especially with a deep backfield to help relieve some of the pressure.

However, he would be transferring into a situation where he would be competing with David Ash, Tyrone Swoopes and incoming dual-threat stud Jerrod Heard, one of the top quarterbacks in the 2014 class.

Is stiff competition really something Wittek wants to face upon his arrival at a new program?

That argument routinely gets debunked when discussing high school recruits, because if players truly want to be the best, they won't be scared of tough competition. But that's exactly what Wittek was facing at USC with returning starter Cody Kessler and talented freshman Max Browne.

Had he felt he could win the job, he likely would have stayed. Is he going to risk the chance of Ash, Swoopes or Heard beating him out, forcing him to ride the bench for the rest of his career?

Wittek could have a tough time beating out David Ash at Texas.
Wittek could have a tough time beating out David Ash at Texas.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In limited action, Wittek completed 50 of 95 passes for 600 yards and three touchdowns to go along with six interceptions. Ash, meanwhile, completed over 60 percent of his passes and threw seven touchdowns with just a pair of picks before getting injured in 2013.

Snatching Wittek might be great for the Longhorns, but it's doubtful that he's transferring just to provide depth.

Hawaii Warriors: Solid fit

Another option here is Hawaii, where Wittek would have a much easier time earning a starting role. The quarterback with the most experience on the Warriors is Taylor Graham, who completed only 46 percent of his passes in six games in 2014. Despite the fact that Wittek hasn't yet boasted great numbers thus far in his career, putting him in an offense that will allow him to chuck it all over the field is ideal.

So if the style of offense earns a check for the Texas option, give it two checks for Hawaii, especially since he'll likely start right away. The downside, however, is the fact that big numbers in the Warriors' system hasn't translated to NFL success. In fact, it rarely warrants the attention of NFL scouts.

Players like Timmy Chang and Colt Brennan were able to put up eye-popping stats at Hawaii, yet neither made an impact as a professional. If Wittek has the tools to succeed then he'll do just that, but nobody will believe it regardless of how well he performs as a Warrior; they'll chalk it up to the "system" and make him prove it at the combine and beyond.

Louisville Cardinals: Great fit

The lone remaining school on his initial list of visits is Louisville, which might be able to check off every box factoring into Wittek's choice.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is off to the NFL after a sparkling collegiate career, and he'll likely end up as a top-10 pick in the 2014 NFL draft. This is notable for two reasons: it proves that you can make it big with the Cardinals, and it means that the starting job is up for grabs.

The only player aside from Bridgewater who garnered playing time this past season was Will Gardner, a 6'5", former 3-star recruit very much in the mold of Wittek himself. Neither player has enough experience to automatically have the upper hand, but clearly Wittek's odds of earning a starting role are increased by only having to beat out one other player.

Plus, with the Cardinals' move to the ACC, Wittek will be facing much stiffer competition than he would at Hawaii, which plays in the Mountain West.

One final school worth mentioning is Fresno State, which Bleacher Report's Kyle Kensing surmises would be an ideal fit for both parties. It might be an unlikely option given the Bulldogs' exclusion from Wittek's initial round of visits, but it's certainly a program to keep an eye on.

At the end of the day, quarterback Max Wittek is a big-time talent with a chance to make some team very happy. He hasn't been all that impressive in his career thus far, but there hasn't been enough of a sample size to rule him a bust. He has all the physical tools necessary of an elite, pro-style signal-caller, and in the right situation, he will blossom.

Following in the footsteps of Teddy Bridgewater wouldn't be easy, but the Cardinals have talent.
Following in the footsteps of Teddy Bridgewater wouldn't be easy, but the Cardinals have talent.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Whether Texas, Hawaii or Louisville is the right situation is entirely up to him. While playing for the Longhorns isn't an ideal option, there's the unique opportunity of restoring a powerhouse program that hasn't seen good quarterback play since the days of Colt McCoy.

At Hawaii, there's practically guaranteed playing time in an offense that would allow him to shine statistically above everyone else. And with Louisville, he'd be in a power conference leading a team very much on the rise.

One thing we do know for sure: Whichever program lands the talented ex-Trojan will be very pleased. If that coaching staff is then able to help Wittek reach his full potential, his transfer could be one of the more impactful offseason moves in recent memory.

All stats via cfbstats.com


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