Max Wittek sits in a precarious position as the days tick ever closer to the start of the season on August 29th. Battling with counterpart Cody Kessler for the starting job, neither player has yet to emerge amidst dozen of snaps apiece.
“Ideally we would have liked to have picked it by now,” Lane Kiffin said after watching the film from the second fall camp scrimmage. “Ideally we would not like to have two quarterbacks come starting day. But you never say never.”
Despite gaining valuable experience from starting the last two games of the regular season, the truest transformation in Wittek’s offensive game may have taken place only this week during a passing drill.
“There were a couple of passes today where I felt myself realize the situation a little more,” Wittek said after practice Wednesday. “I was making more mature throws, sensing the situation, which will really help me in the long run.”
Currently in the midst of a fascinating quarterback battle filled with plenty of ups and downs, Wittek feels confident in this team’s success because of a major change in culture on and off the field.
“We have such a great team dynamic but compared to last year we had so many individual, just highly-ranked guys,” Wittek says. “This year, there is no drop off in talent, but we have so much more of a togetherness as a team.”
Following a 2-7 passing performance featuring no first downs on Friday, Wittek has been placed behind the eight ball by the national media. This, after witnessing running mate Kessler complete 20-28 passes for 231 yards and three scores, dissecting the Trojans second-string defense all afternoon long.
Struggling to even convert a single first down in six series on offense, Wittek accepted his unit’s mistake by powering through them. “It was just another practice and we just look at every day as another opportunity,” said Wittek of the goals this camp, whether it follows a strong outing, or a befuddling performance during the scrimmage.
Knowing the implications of leaning one way or the other, Kiffin praised his defense, saying they “played the best they have ever played all fall.” Nevertheless, a portion of that credit falls on the much-maligned offense they were facing, which struggled to find any real rhythm.
The Trojans’ gunslinger relies on his never-fading confidence and game-managing abilities to lead the offense through some tough patches along the way.”Being able to have confidence in yourself…if you are all wrong then you are alright,” Wittek mentioned of a key phrase quarterbacks coach Clay Helton preaches on a daily basis.
Playing with his back against the wall, Wittek stuck to form on offense on Saturday and played within the system, finding his intended targets to the tune of continued success in 11×11 and 7×7 passing drills.
“It felt awesome, we threw the ball very accurately today,” Wittek said following practice on Saturday. “I felt like I was on it, and I put the receivers in the position to catch the ball and make great plays.”
It may have just been another practice at Howard Jones Field, but the calmness and composure both quarterbacks have handled throughout the constant battle should only help them in the long run.
“A lot of the stuff you don’t see off the field, the great player accountability we have,” Wittek mentioned when looking forward. “We have a good dynamic and it will be awesome this year to see how it all plays out.”
At the end of the day the Mater Dei alum must play within the designed system, while also taking individual opportunities to showcase his strong-armed talents. “The offense calls for us to play mistake free-football,” Wittek said following a one-turnover outing, with an INT that “truly got me”, Saturday. “We have to take what the defense gives us and when the opportunity presents themselves, let it fly deep.”
With the season two weeks away, we can anticipate that Kiffin will have a clear idea of who will be the start at some point this week, whether or not he elects to make that announce,emt public just yet.