Max Wittek announced his intentions of transferring from USC on Wednesday night, in an article and scoop from Gary Klein of the LA Times. In doing so, Wittek made it clear he would be sitting out of spring practice to focus on finishing his bachelor’s degree at USC, in order to qualify for the NCAA’s graduate exception to the transfer rule. The exception would make him immediately eligible to play football at another school, without having sit out the 2014 season.
With Wittek out of the mix, a three-pronged open quarterback competition between he, incumbent Cody Kessler and hotshot redshirt-freshman Max Browne becomes a duel.
Simple math says that’s more reps for each, which is a welcomed benefit when it comes to Browne’s shot at beating Kessler for the job.
At the moment, it would seem that Kessler has the advantage following a solid first year as the Trojans’ signal caller, but Browne will get the chance to prove if he’s closed the gap from last spring.
Then, he was a wiry 18-year-old given the task of learning Lane Kiffin’s Cheesecake Factory menu of a playbook. Now, he’s added weight, bulked up and has a year of relaying signals to Kessler under his belt, which should prepare him for a dogfight this spring.
While the true openness of the quarterback competition remains to be seen, it’s worth noting that Steve Sarkisian and USC sit at a position of strength with Kessler and Browne, as long as they stay healthy.
Should Kessler ultimately keep the job, he’d begin the season with a year of experience as a starter under his belt, which is huge for confidence, continuity and his presumed progression. He’d also have won every competition for No. 1 that he’d be in, which has to account for something.
On the flip side, Browne beating out Kessler would require significant separation. If that were to happen, the Trojans would find themselves with a quarterback in Browne that would likely be every bit as good as advertised, since Kessler’s 2013 season was worthy of another year as a starter.
Barring an injury to decide between the two, a centrally focused quarterback duel can only help USC going into year one of the Sarkisian era.
In addition to Kessler and Browne, mid-year enrollee Jalen Greene now assumes the position of raw rookie that Browne held last spring. With one less body in front of him, any additional attention and opportunity gained from a thinner quarterback corps is an advantage in the long run.
Spring practice begins on March 11th at Howard Jones Field.