The Trojans kicked off spring practice on March 5 and no position is being watched more closely than quarterback this spring in Los Angeles as sophomores Max Wittek and Cody Kessler are competing with highly-touted true freshman Max Browne to replace Matt Barkley.
Though the competition was thought to be relatively open, one had to think that Wittek had an advantage over Kessler and Browne due to his experience filling in for Barkley against Notre Dame and in the Sun Bowl, even though he wasn't particularly impressive. With some experience under his belt, Wittek was running with the number ones at the beginning of spring practice but suffered a reportedly minor knee injury that will keep him off the field for a couple of weeks and makes things a bit more interesting at the position.
Wittek's injury really opens the door for Kessler who is now getting the number one snaps for at least a couple of weeks. Wittek had yet to grab firm hold of the job in spring, and his absence, even if only a brief one could really bust the competition wide open.
This battle between Wittek and Kessler is a familiar one and one many saw coming as both were similarly rated quarterbacks coming out of high school that were highly-regarded for their strong arms when they signed in 2011. Both graduated early to participate in spring practice in 2011 and have battled it out for the backup spot behind Barkley seemingly ever since. Wittek is a bit bigger than Kessler at 6'4 235 while Kessler is 6'1 215, but both have rocket arms and Kessler might be a little bit less of a gunslinger than Wittek. So it may come down to whether Lane Kiffin is more comfortable with a big risk/reward with Wittek or an efficient flow with Kessler.
The wild card in the race is true freshman Max Browne who was regarded as the top quarterback in the Class of 2013 by man and graduated from Seattle-area powerhouse Skyline early to take part in spring practice. The 6'5 215 Browne, was expected by many to be right in the thick of it with Wittek and Kessler, but early reports have seemed to focus on Browne throwing a few interceptions and having some of the struggles that one might imagine a quarterback who technically still should be a senior in high school might experience.
With all of the uncertainty, this has to a position that USC coaches are at least a little bit worried about, especially with Wittek now battling an injury and very well may be the most interesting position battle of all this spring in the Pac-12.