Fall Camp begins next Monday, and as such we have prepared a series of position previews, based on the depth chart that USC head coach Lane Kiffin released at the end of spring ball. So far, we have gone over the wide receivers and the defensive line. Next up, we look at the quarterbacks.
With Jesse Scroggins transferring from Troy in the offseason, USC has four QBs on roster:
1. Matt Barkley, senior
2*. Cody Kessler, redshirt freshman
2*. Max Wittek, redshirt freshman
4. John Manoogian, redshirt senior
We already know that Barkley is going to start, is supposed to have an epic season, and go on a Heisman run. So let’s look at the two names under him because they are undoubtedly going to be one of the most intriguing dramas to follow during camp.
Kessler and Wittek came to USC in 2011, ranked the No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks in their class, respectively. It seemed a little odd that they would both commit to USC knowing that they would have to redshirt while Matt Barkley started his junior season, and then have to compete to back him up in 2012. Nevertheless both young QBs are still at USC, and both of them are still vying for the number-two spot.
At the end of camp, Kiffin did not elaborate as to which of them was leading in the competition to back up Barkley, though they both have noticeably different strengths. During the spring, Kessler emerged as the more vocal leader of the two, but Wittek’s arm strength is undeniable. They both have been trying to work on becoming the complete package and whoever ultimately becomes QB 2 will find himself in a position to get a good amount of playing time this year.
Barkley likely is not going to take every single snap of all 12 games, especially early in the season and if USC is blowing an opponent out. Against Hawaii in the season opener, for example, we could see Kiffin take Barkley out in the third quarter, and then Kessler could play for a few drives, and the Wittek for a few. By the end of the season, the guy that’s QB 2 could find himself with upwards of 30 real-life reps under his belt, which would prime him for his takeover of the Trojan squad when Barkley’s tenure is up.
But before we can even get to that, Kiffin will have to name a QB 2, which he still has yet to do. That’s definitely going to be one of the bigger stories to follow during fall camp, as the player who is not given the backup job will likely transfer out of USC. The Class of 2013’s No. 1-ranked quarterback, Max Browne, is headed to Troy at the end of this year, which will add even more competition for that starting spot down the line.
Kiffin likely won’t actually tell us who is going to be Barkley’s backup until he absolutely has to (possibly to avoid a transfer, but also because it’s Lane Kiffin and he does things on his own terms), so until then, we will just have to speculate and watch this soap opera play out.