As the debate rages on about whether USC quarterback Matt Barkley will stay for his senior year or bolt for the NFL, his backups are battling for position in hopes of succeeding him.
While many people believe that USC's 2012 season rides on Barkley, most forget that this is USC, and USC recruits good quarterbacks. Each of the Trojans' starters since Carson Palmer have been Heisman contenders at one point, and that is a credit to their incredible depth at the quarterback position.
That depth is still evident today, as there are three top recruits looking to take over quarterbacking for the Men of Troy.
So who is waiting in the wings and silently cheering for Barkley to leave early?
Let's take a look.
Among the quarterbacks that have come out of Santa Ana Mater Dei High School are Matt Barkley, Matt Leinart and Colt Brennan. Another on that list is redshirt freshman Max Wittek.
The Under Armour All-American was a 4-star recruit, and according to Rivals.com, was the third-best quarterback of his class.
Lane Kiffin has called him "big and strong-armed," and he compares physically to Carson Palmer.
ESPN Recruiting called him a "very good prospect" that is at his best when given time to throw. Not being an exceptionally mobile guy, Wittek loses efficiency significantly when hurried.
That being said, he has a high ceiling and Barkley has said Wittek has the "best intangibles" of the backups.
Jesse Scroggins has the strongest arm of the three, but the redshirt sophomore has had trouble learning the details of USC's offense.
Scroggins was a 4-star recruit coming out of high school and was the fifth-best quarterback on a list that included Alabama backup Phillip Sims, Oregon backup Bryan Bennett, Washington backup Nick Montana and Notre Dame starter Tommy Rees.
According to ESPN, Scroggins compares to Jason Campbell in build and has off-the-charts arm strength and mechanics. He also doesn't force anything and as his 35-5 senior year touchdown to interception rate suggests, he protects the football.
The final backup on the list is redshirt freshman Cody Kessler.
Coming out of Centennial High School (CA), Kessler is the only one of the three to be named a U.S. Army All-American. He was also the second-best quarterback out of his class in the Rivals rankings, falling in one spot ahead of Max Wittek.
The 4-star recruit is the most mobile of the three, and although he has proven to be good decision maker with a quick release, his height could be an issue.
Standing at 6'1", Kessler is somewhat short for the position, but Kiffin has said that he has transitioned from the shotgun offense he ran in high school to USC's pro-style offense very well.
While they may not be as great as Matt Barkley, backups Max Wittek, Jesse Scroggins and Cody Kessler are all very talented and could certainly find success in USC's offense.
Kiffin and Barkley have refused to set one apart as the frontrunner, as each possesses different skill sets and different strengths. But in an offense complemented by Robert Woods, Marquise Lee and Curtis McNeal, it may not matter who the quarterback is.
All of USC will be begging for Barkley to come back, and his return would certainly make the Trojans a top-five team and national title contender. However, Barkley's decision isn't life or death for USC's BCS hopes, as there is plenty of talent waiting to replace him and even more talent across the rest of the team.
USC could be in for a fierce quarterback competition in the offseason, and bowl eligibility is certainly something that will motivate those competing for the job.
That being said, things could go a lot smoother if USC had a certain someone back for the job in 2012.