USC looking for Barkley's successor

April 10, 2012

LOS ANGELES - On the practice field, coaches are constantly reminding players to compete. Pete Carroll made "Competition Tuesdays" infamous when he roamed the Coliseum sidelines as USC head coach.

Carroll's gone, but the competition is still around.

"When you compete against great players, it only makes you great," quarterback Max Wittek said. "USC is known for its competition when you come here. You got top athletes from every position. That's what makes this place so great. That's what makes everyone better around everyone."

One of the highly watched battles this spring has been the competition between redshirt freshmen Wittek and Cody Kessler for who will get the nod as Matt Barkley's backup, thus having the upper hand to become Barkley's successor.

However, nothing's a given.

A win in the spring does not equal a win in the fall. And come next spring, Max Browne, the No. 1 quarterback in the country out of Skyline High School in Washington, is expected to join the party.

Browne, who says USC recruited him "hard," announced last week his intentions to become a Trojan and is well aware of what he's getting himself into.

It starts with competition.

"I'm going to go to USC to compete, try to mix things up," Browne told the Seattle Times. "I've been to their quarterback meetings and practices and seen firsthand Cody Kessler, Max Wittek and Jesse Scroggins. They're great quarterbacks. There's a reason they're at USC."

And so the competition mounts. Wittek, however, has no qualms with the No. 1 quarterback in the nation being headed to USC.

"(I) just take it in stride," Wittek said. "I've said this before. Even if Peyton Manning just committed here, I wouldn't care less. I feel like I'm going to come to this field everyday with the attitude that I'm going to be the next starter. Bring in whoever you want, I'm going to beat them out."

As the recruiting nation talked about another big get for the Trojans on the recruiting circuit, it was back to regularly scheduled programming for Lane Kiffin's redshirt freshmen quarterbacks.

While the offense is falling apart around them - one body at a time - the two quarterbacks have done a good job handling their duties. It's been an injury-plagued spring for the Trojans, having to work through some practices without a healthy scholarship tight end, or only two healthy wide receivers, or just two healthy tailbacks at times.

Kessler and Wittek have taken the lion's share of the reps this spring and made the most of the opportunity, despite the lack of numbers around them.

"I think they've done well," Kiffin said. "They don't get as frustrated as Matt (Barkley) because it's so new to them. I think they've handled the huddle really well, the offense, getting people lined up (correctly). They both seem to be very experienced for guys that are just freshmen."

Their performance this spring all goes back to the competition.

"It's like (quarterbacks) coach (Clay) Helton says, 'Come out and compete for Matt's job every day. If you come out and compete for second every time, that's not going to help you when Matt leaves,'" Kessler said. "We're coming out and we're just competing the whole time."

Kiffin says the staff will make their evaluations on the competition after the Trojans wrap up spring drills.

WR George Farmer (hamstring) practiced but was limited …WR De'Von Flournoy (ankle) returned to practice after sitting out Saturday …Kiffin said the most consistent players this spring have been WR Marqise Lee, CB Nickell Robey and S T.J. McDonald …Kiffin says Lee has been "dominant" this spring…RB Buck Allen (hamstring) was active for the second consecutive practice …Kiffin says the Trojans "potentially" will not tackle during Saturday's Spring Game. That decision will likely be made on Friday…DB Josh Shaw, a Palmdale High School graduate who transferred from Florida, will have his case for a hardship waiver reviewed by the NCAA on Thursday.