Matt Barkley didn't attempt a single pass in the scrimmage portion of the Trojans' Saturday practice at the Coliseum, a move designed to maximize Cody Kessler and Max Wittek's opportunities in a game-like setting.
The two redshirt freshmen split snaps fairly evenly, with Wittek going first with the rest of the first-team offense and Kessler following with the second-teamers. They switched after the mid-scrimmage break.
Neither player threw a pick and both completed the majority of their passes, despite having only two scholarship receivers to work with -- and only one, De'Von Flournoy, for a good portion of the session.
They each had one noticeable mess-up: Wittek overthrew Victor Blackwell on the first play of the scrimmage in what he called a miscommunication and Kessler slipped on the wet grass when trying to hit Tre Madden on a flat that he said would have been a for-sure touchdown.
Overall, Lane Kiffin said he was pleased with both players' performance in front of several hundred fans at the Coliseum.
"I thought they did a good job, same thing running the huddle," he said. "They seemed very mature when you're around the huddle with them and with the offense so it's good to see."
Kiffin has traditionally been happy with both Wittek and Kessler. Neither player has received even the slightest form of criticism from the head coach since arriving on campus last January, other than the standard he's-young-and-has-a-lot-to-learn line.
But he has taken it a step further this spring, saying Saturday he'd have absolutely no problem with either of them backing up Barkley come September.
“I’d be very comfortable with both of them,” Kiffin said. “I think they’re both doing a great job. Neither of them has gone beyond the other one to know who the No. 2 is yet, but I think both of them would play really well.”
The differences between the two are clear: Wittek has the bigger arm and Kessler has the bigger personality, the more commanding huddle presence. But both have appeared to make strides with their deficiencies this spring, Wittek earning praise from teammates for his louder, more commanding in-huddle style and Kessler showing off an ability to make the necessary throws.
There are six practices left in the spring, but Kiffin will almost assuredly hold off making a decision on the backup spot until the fall.