The USC Trojans opened up spring practice in a three-man race for the starting quarterback job in 2013. However, that race has been between just two potential QBs over the last two practices as Cody Kessler and Max Browne have split reps while Max Wittek has sat out with a sprained MCL. Will this setback cost Wittek the starter’s job in 2013?
The injury took place on Saturday when Wittek was holding for a kick. He was on the sidelines for Tuesday’s practice with a protective sleeve on his knee and a slight limp, and coaches said he would likely be held out of practice until after spring break. At the time, Lane Kiffin assured reporters that this injury would have “no effect” on Wittek’s odds of becoming the starter next season.
That statement was likely in part because of the struggles of the other two quarterbacks in Wittek’s absence on Tuesday. Browne threw a pair of interceptions to fellow incoming freshman Su’a Cravens in a late-practice scrimmage and Kessler had a number of botched exchanges with his center. With bumbling like that, it’s easy to say “We’ll wait for the hurt guy.”
But Thursday’s practice went much smoother for both quarterbacks. Kessler spent some extra time working on the quarterback exchange with center Max Tuerk and got through practice clean. Browne made better choices with the football and avoided any interceptions, calling it “my best day here,” as he split first-team reps with the older Kessler.
With the best practice of the spring under their belts with one more practice on Saturday before breaking for spring break, Kessler and Browne may be pulling ahead of Wittek for the starting quarterback job. If Wittek can’t return for practice on Saturday, he will not take a snap again until March 26. That will be two-and-a-half weeks between reps and if he’s out of Kiffin’s sight that long, he might end up out of his mind as well.
Lane Kiffin is under heavy pressure to win in 2013, so you can bet that he will be analyzing and crafting his game plan after just about every practice this spring. If he goes into the week-long break without seeing Wittek throw in over a week, the gameplans may become more and more catered to Kessler and Browne’s skill sets, leaving Wittek fighting an uphill battle for playing time next fall.
Wittek says he will push himself to be ready to participate, at least partially, in practice Saturday. He likely understands how important every practice is this spring if he hopes to be the starter next fall.
His two starts last season didn’t give him any kind of head start in this quarterback race and he’ll find himself buried on the depth chart next fall if he isn’t on the field earning the job in practice.