Soon-to-be junior quarterback Max Wittek told the LA Times on Wednesday that he intends to transfer from USC and play elsewhere in 2014. With a degree in hand, Wittek would be immediately eligible per a graduate exception by the NCAA, making him a hot commodity on the free agent market.
Where could he go? Well consider a couple of factors: Wittek is originally from Connecticut and would presumably like to go to a place where he could get the most playing time, quickly, while playing in an offense and an environment that caters to an NFL future.
We’ve assembled a quick list of five schools to watch for in the Wittek sweepstakes.
Fresno State Bulldogs: With Derek Carr graduated and soon to be drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Bulldogs are in need of a starting quarterback. Junior Brian Burrell backed up Carr in 2013, while Carr’s former backup Greg Watson moved from quarterback to receiver last season. Then there’s Myles Carr — no relation to Derek — who will be a sophomore this upcoming season. With the quarterback situation very fluid and a successor to the most prolific passer in school history yet to be found, it’s possible that head coach Tim DeRuyter could see Wittek as an upgrade. Add in geography to the Bulldogs’ extreme need for a quarterback in a very pass-happy air raid offense and Fresno State could be the favorite to land the former Mater Dei star. Interestingly enough, USC opens the 2014 season against Fresno State, which would only add storylines to an already anticipated Las Vegas Bowl rematch at the Coliseum.
San Jose State Spartans: Like Fresno State, SJSU has to replace a legend in David Fales. Though unlike their NorCal rivals, the Spartans have a guy that could be pegged as Fales’ successor. That’s Blake Jurich, who will be a senior this season after spending his first three seasons backing up Fales. Jurich isn’t the prototypical passer that Fales was however, as he was often called the “Blakedozer” by fans and media alike due to what the Santa Cruz Sentinel called “his ability to plow through a defense.” Since Fales put up boatloads of yards at SJSU and built up a strong NFL Draft resume, San Jose could supply the need and offense for Wittek, even if it’s Fresno State Lite, per se.
Texas Longhorns: The Horns are without a real McCoy, following Case’s graduation. That may put the job back into the hands of senior David Ash, who battled both injuries and ineffectiveness in 2013. Ash was just cleared by the Texas medical staff this month and he’ll have to fight off a highly-touted Vince Young clone in Tyrone Swoopes. That said, even with competition surely in the cards in Austin, CBS Sports’s Bruce Feldman pondered on Twitter if Texas could be in the mix for Wittek. As Feldman points out, former USC running backs coach Tommie Robinson is part of Charlie Strong’s staff at Texas and he could have enough of a relationship to recruit Wittek. That said, would Wittek want to get back into another three-horse race for a quarterback job that he’d likely begin as the third-best option? Could be a stretch.
Louisville Cardinals: In a trend with Fresno State and San Jose State, the Cards are having to replace an NFL arm in Teddy Bridgewater. Redshirt sophomore Will Gardner has the inside track, having been in tow for the last two years. But add a whole new coaching staff under Bobby Petrino and a move to the ACC and interest in adding Wittek seems viable. Former UAB head coach Garrick McGee will run the Louisville offense as the Cards’ new OC and he’s a run very similar pro-style attack to Lane Kiffin. McGee coached Ryan Mallett while the offensive coordinator at Arkansas, a quarterback with plenty of tendencies that are comparable to Wittek. Under McGee’s tutelage, Mallett blossomed, throwing for 3,869 yards and 32 touchdowns as senior. Wittek could see that potential in the McGee offense and a potentially winnable quarterback battle and find himself in the ACC.
Florida Gators: Ask around Gainesville and you’ll find out quickly that Jeff Driskel probably isn’t going to be the guy to lead the Gators to the College Football Playoff. ESPN’s Jeff Barlis called his 2013 “disastrous”, meaning that Will Muschamp’s season could be in much need of finding a new quarterback, or at least someone to push Driskel towards improvement. Florida, under Urban Meyer at the time, was a finalist for Wittek before he committed to USC back in April of 2010 and their needs at quarterback could put them back in the running for his services. The Gators’ offense will be a pro-style attack under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who had Duke ranked fourth in the ACC in total offense last season. Consider both the competition and offense in Wittek’s wheelhouse.