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Thursday, January 30, 2014
Players coming and going at USC

By Garry Paskwietz

The news came in twos this week for the USC Trojans involving a pair of players, one leaving and one coming, both with two years of eligibility left to pursue their college football dreams.

The first came early in the week when it was confirmed that junior college defensive tackle Claude Pelon was enrolled in school for the spring semester. Pelon had committed to USC last month but had not yet qualified to transfer when the semester started on January 13. At the time, USC coach Steve Sarkisian said it was a matter of finishing up one class and that Pelon was expected soon.

Max Wittek
Max Wittek's decision to leave USC isn't a complete shock, and it gives him a good opportunity to succeed at another program.
The fact that Pelon is now confirmed is important news for a defensive front that will need to replace a two-year starter in the middle in George Uko, who left school early for the NFL draft. Pelon offers a 6-foot-5, 285-pound frame along with two years of junior college experience. He had 9.5 tackles for loss in 2013 at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College.

USC will be led in the interior by ESPN All-American Leonard Williams but the Trojans also have Texas Tech transfer Delvon Simmons available next year, along with J.R. Tavai, Antwaun Woods, Kenny Bigelow, Greg Townsend and Cody Temple to help make up for the departure of Uko.

On Wednesday, the news came that quarterback Max Wittek would be sitting out spring ball and planned to transfer at the end of the semester.

It was not completely unexpected news. Ever since it became clear last summer and into the fall that Cody Kessler was working his way into the starting job, the speculation was rampant on the possibility of Wittek transferring. Instead, Wittek stayed and spent the season as the backup while Kessler did his part to solidify the job.

When Sarkisian came in as coach, there was talk of opening all position battles but when Wittek wasn’t really a name that was tossed around with the potential of challenging Kessler, that thought went to Max Browne. Still, Wittek told teammates at the end of the regular season that he planned to stay and he did enroll for the spring semester.

As it turns out, that spring semester will be his last at USC. Wittek, who enrolled early at USC in the spring of 2011, will graduate in May and will be eligible to transfer to another NCAA school with two years of immediate eligibility remaining.

In a world where so much involving the NCAA seems to go wrong, this is one case where an NCAA rule has truly benefited the player. The situation for Wittek, in regards to football, didn’t work out at USC, although he can say he had a shot with two games of starting experience under his belt at the end of the 2012 season. But since he took care of his work in the classroom by graduating, he gets rewarded with an opportunity to hand pick a spot where he can spend his final two years of eligibility.

Wittek will get to sit back and watch what transpires in spring ball, to see how quarterback depth charts shake out at different schools, and he can make a very educated decision about his destination. There is still plenty of talent in Wittek’s right arm and there’s little doubt he can find success in the right environment.