Thursday, April 4, 2013
Roundtable: Talking about quarterbacks
By WeAreSC staff
“The quarterback competition is the most high-profile position battle this spring. Give your thoughts on how things are looking as the Trojans head into the final days of spring ball."
I think the big thing right now is the fact that there is still a competition. There was a lot of speculation that spring ball would simply be a continuation of the process that started last November, with Max Wittek taking control of the starting spot and Cody Kessler not getting a legitimate shot.
Two things happened this spring which prevented that from happening. The first is that Kessler showed up ready to play. He’s been at a solid level from the first day and looks very comfortable in control of the offense. The second was the injury to Wittek, which caused him to miss a week of practice. It wasn’t a major injury, which was good news, but it gave enough of an opportunity for Kessler to stake a real claim in the competition.
It’s worth noting that Wittek has looked extremely good since coming back from the injury. His arm strength is the best it’s been and he is really growing into an impressive physical specimen for a quarterback.
I don’t think there’s any question that this competition will go into the fall, and Lane Kiffin has basically said as much. Don’t read into this as a case where there is a problem finding a starter because neither player is up to the task. This is definitely a situation where two guys have been in the system for a while and are well-prepared for the opportunity.
While the competition for the role as the team’s starting quarterback is sure to extend well into fall camp, it looks like Cody Kessler and Max Wittek have separated themselves somewhat from the young freshman, Max Browne, as we head into the final stages of spring ball.
It’s been Kessler who has obviously made the biggest impression. He doesn’t possess the NFL body that Wittek does or the starting experience but, as Kiffin says, he’s a “gamer” and just always seems to get the job done. Shining in the scrimmages, he’s shown poise and accuracy throughout the spring. But what impresses me most is the way that he commands the huddle, and the rest of the team seems to really feed off his leadership.
Wittek’s development this spring was certainly stymied by his time away due to injury, but now that he's back in the flow of things he’s starting to pick his level of play up once again. With the strong arm and unique physical skills that he has, there are times in practice when he grabs your attention with some of the throws that he makes. It’s a shame that he wasn’t around the entire spring to more fully cultivate that potential on a consistent basis.
It’s certainly too soon to make a call on this competition at this time, but the ultimate hope is that both Kessler and Wittek finish off the spring strong and continue to bring out the best in each other throughout the summer and into the fall. And if that happens, I think that the Trojans will find themselves with a more-than-capable starter at the position, whether that winds up being Kessler or Wittek.
The quarterback competition is really a two-horse race. Because he was missing for a period of time with a knee injury, Max Wittek has slightly fallen behind Cody Kessler in the race to be No. 1. I do think that Wittek has closed the gap some this week, as he seems to have shaken off the previous week’s cobwebs as a result of his previous inactivity.
I think the quarterback difference right now is that Wittek has the more powerful arm, but Kessler has the ability to make things happen and has taken advantage of Wittek's absence to show some good stuff out there. These are really two contrasting styles of quarterbacks. We have already had a glimpse of Wittek in the final two regular season games (Notre Dame and Georgia Tech), but despite his inexperience, Kessler is a very intriguing prospect with his combination of athletic mobility, leadership, and command in the huddle. With fans in the stands to add some real game atmosphere, perhaps the upcoming spring game will help sort things out.
As for true freshman Max Browne, he certainly has flashed his vast potential for the future, especially with his deadly accuracy going deep. At the moment, however, Browne is understandably too inexperienced to be taken seriously as a starting candidate and a useful redshirt season appears likely.