Max Wittek ready for his close-up?

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
1:51
PM PT
On January 5, 2011, five days before his first class at USC, Max Wittek played in the Under Armour All-American Game.

Among the future stars on the field that day: Jadeveon Clowney, Braxton Miller, Brett Hundley and one Marqise Lee, playing safety.

Yet the biggest star of the day was probably Wittek, who starred for the losing team, throwing two touchdown passes, including a 49-yarder, to give his team the late lead at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

At one point, he completed seven straight passes. He also evaded Clowney on a memorable 10-yard scramble, showing his above-average mobility.

Why are you getting this information now? Because Wittek, now a redshirt freshman for the unranked Trojans, is scheduled to start Saturday's game against No. 1 Notre Dame, with Matt Barkley sitting out with a sprained shoulder.

It'll be the first-ever start for the 19-year-old, and this week will be his biggest turn in the spotlight since that Florida day.

He proved ready then. What about now?

The 6-4, 245-pound Wittek has a big arm -- a significantly stronger one than Barkley's. He's also more mobile, but prone to taking ill-advised chances. He can go from wonderful to awful in the span of a snap, but he started to find more of a middle ground in fall camp this year.

Wittek has done a commendable job subbing in for Barkley on limited occasions so far this season, completing 8-of-9 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in three appearances. His lone incompletion was the first pass he threw against Colorado last month.

He'll be swarmed by media after the Trojans practice on Tuesday, but, if the past several months are any indication, he'll do just fine. Wittek has taken informal interview lessons from Barkley since his days in high school at Santa Ana Mater Dei.

Wittek has said he feels he has made big gains in controlling his nerves since coming to USC.

"Out there, I don't feel nervous at all, ever, anymore," he told ESPNLosAngeles.com in August, two days before he was officially named Barkley's backup over Cody Kessler. "Not that I did last year, either, but there were moments when, for example, I knew a blitz was coming and I knew I had to do something but I didn't know what that something was.

"Now. I'm bang-bang and I know the call."

He'll need to know all the calls on Saturday. An interception or two is to be expected, but so is a pretty touchdown pass.

The Trojans may rely heavily on their running game this weekend, but they'll need Wittek to make enough plays to keep them in the game against the Irish.

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