It was announced earlier this week that USC Trojan quarterback Max Wittek will transfer upon his graduation this spring.
You remember Wittek, I’m sure — the brash, young quarterback who took over for the injured Matt Barkley last season, guaranteed a win against Notre Dame, and then “led” the Trojans to a 22-13 flop on national television.
A precedent was set that night and a promise was made and not kept — the promise to hand Notre Dame their first loss of the season, to play the role of “spoiler.” Instead, the Trojans played the roles of the spoiled, guaranteeing a win over a top-notch program and failing to produce, once again, assuming their history and lore would simply make the Irish fold and hand the game over.
Wittek then followed that up with a humiliating defeat at the hands of the never-feared, but always forgotten, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the “vaunted” Hyundai Sun Bowl (Yes, I know there were too many sarcastic adjectives in there but I’m trying to get my point across. Do you know how embarrassing it was to lose to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl? We were ranked No. 1 at one point in 2012!).
In both games, Wittek was less than impressive and, to most people, Wittek’s chance to start for the Cardinal and Gold was over; unfortunately, Lane Kiffin is not most people. Often times in fact, he does things that are questionable (two words: screen pass).
Kiffin came up with the ingenious plan to use both Wittek and Cody Kessler to start the season off, because apparently the nine months he had to see them play against a USC defense that would end the season as one of the best nationally was not enough. He needed to see them play Hawaii’s staunch D.
The Trojans lost their home opener against Mike Leach’s national powerhouse from Washington State. Amidst cries for his head, Kiffin finally announced Kessler would be the starter going forward.
Once again, there was hope — hope the Trojans would be one of the few to seamlessly incorporate a 2-QB system. Hope that the legend Barkley could finally be adequately replaced. And once again the men on the field simply could not fulfill that hope; instead of saying “will,” the Trojans were saying “almost did but not quite.”
Kessler responded well upon receiving the starting job and won the hearts of the Trojan faithful when he led the squad to a victory over Stanford at home. USC was able to finish the season a respectable 19th nationally.
Fast forward to now. New head coach Steve Sarkisian and his high-octane offensive staff originally had announced that they had convinced Wittek to stay and compete for the starting quarterback job alongside Kessler and freshman phenom Max Browne.
By all accounts the veteran quarterback was the consummate teammate during his time at USC, and is actually graduating early, which is no small task when you’re a football player at a football university that is also known for its stellar academics.
Regardless, he made the decision to try out something new, but really it’s not about him transferring as much as it is about what Wittek has come to represent at USC. Wittek was a symbol of such promise for the Trojans going forward when he first got the job, and like many things in Troy, the promise did not come to fruition.
He was supposed to be the guy who was supposed to start for two years and then probably be a senior mentor to whoever eventually got the job in a few years (Browne, Ricky Town, David Sills, etc.). Unfortunately, it just never happened.
Like a lot about the USC football program these last few years, when it came down to the product that was on the field, the hype never lived up to the actual results.
So, it is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Wittek and unfortunately once again, admit that our sense of hope has gradually become a sense of regret.
One of these days the Trojans will convert that promise into results, but unfortunately, Wittek won’t be around to see it.