USC's keys to success: No. 4, Kessler or Wittek
Aug 23, 2013 at 9:20a ET
Remember Aaron Corp vs. Mitch Mustain vs Matt Barkley?
How about Matt Leinart vs. Matt Cassel?
The 2013 season brings us the quarterback battle of Cody Kessler vs. Max Wittek.
And what a matchup it's turned out to be. The redshirt sophomores have gone down to the wire and are about six days away from heading into overtime.
USC had coach Lane Kiffin would love to have the situation resolved before the Trojans take the field at Hawaii on Aug. 29 but hasn't ruled out playing both QBs.
If you're trying to put into words what Matt Barkley meant to USC, look no further than his nickname -- "Matty Trojan."
He was a four-year starter, a three-year captain, and in the program's most trying time he became its face, endearing himself to USC fans forever.
Huge shoes fill.
Either Kessler or Wittek, once named the starter, will likely hold that position for the next 2-3 seasons, finishing off what Barkley started and seeing the program through the remainder of NCAA sanctions.
The starter also have the chance to turn the initial page and help fans immediately get over the 7-6 season of a year ago.
So, who's it gonna be?
Kiffin says he's comfortable with either.
"We're very excited about both guys,"the head coach said. "Both guys can go in and run our offense really well and win a bunch of games for us."
Kessler thinks he's done enough to earn the nod. Wittek feels the same about himself.
Importance of Kessler/Wittek
Decision making is obviously a huge deal but leadership and command could go a lot further. As much as Barkley was revered by the USC faithful his ability to connect and lead his teammates towards the end of his career suffered. There will be adversity and having a leader at quarterback with the ability to pick teammates up when they're down or rally the team late in a close game could be the difference in a mediocre season or a 10 or more win campaign.
Number of note: 1-1-09
As in Jan. 1, 2009 was the last time USC won a game with a starting quarterback not named Matt Barkley. In the Barkley era, USC went 0-4 in games he didn't start including the final two games of the 2012 season in which Wittek got the nod.
In two starts last season, Wittek completed 28-of-60 for 293 yards, two touchdowns, and five interceptions. Kessler attempted just two passes, completing both for nine yards in 2012. The USC quarterbacks combined to throw 20 interceptions.
"We're not dumb, we know we're competing,"Kessler said.
"I think I've put my resume on tape throughout the course of camp,"Wittek said.
In Kessler, you have a quarterback that's more mobile than his counterpart. His deep-ball accuracy has been a knock on him but he has the improvisational skills to turn nothing into something. Wittek, on the other hand, looks the part. His measurables stack up with the type of quarterbacks you see on Sundays -- 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and a rocket for an arm.
His touch on short to intermediate throws, however, has been a knock on him. Teammates seem to rally around Kessler who brings an enthusiasm to the field every day.
Wittek has a more workmanlike approach. Whoever is under center is not going be called on to go and win games for USC. They'll be surrounded by a talented cast of characters. The most important is the running game. If it's as effective as Kiffin hopes it's going to be, it will beneficial in taking the pressure off of the young QB, whichever one gets the starting nod.