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Thursday, November 22, 2012
Will Max Wittek be nervous?

By Pedro Moura

LOS ANGELES -- He's been with the USC Trojans for almost two years and has all the natural ability required to be a successful collegiate quarterback.

Max Wittek
Lane Kiffin has confidence in Max Wittek, but he knows nerves could be an issue in such a big game.
But there's still a big question with Max Wittek, the 19-year-old who will get the call in place of the injured Matt Barkley for the Trojans in Saturday's 5 p.m. PT game against No. 1 Notre Dame.

Is he going to be, well, you know, nervous?

His coach, Lane Kiffin, has praised Wittek's confidence all week, and even in comments last year said Wittek had the attitude of a starter. But Kiffin allowed this week that there's a natural worry about nerves when dealing with a first-time starter, "especially in the magnitude of this game."

"We've got some time to make sure he's making really good decisions and does not let the emotion of the game or the crowd get to him," Kiffin said Wednesday.

Wittek, a redshirt freshman with nine pass attempts under his belt, has been "unbelievable" in practices this week, according to his coach, playing beyond his years.

"He does not seem like a freshman," Kiffin said. "He's had a great command of the huddle out there, and he's been working really well with the skilled guys."

That command and confidence is what originally attracted Kiffin and his staff to Wittek. He committed to USC as a 16-year-old high-school junior in April 2010, a few months after Barkley finished his freshman season as the Trojans' starting quarterback.

"Max is really confident, which is why he's been successful and part of why he's here," Kiffin said this week. "We've always seen that in him."

Wittek would not have played if Barkley had suffered a similar injury a season ago. Fellow redshirt freshman Cody Kessler beat Wittek out last year but was relegated to the No. 3 role this August.

Kessler, now USC's holder, will only enter the game on offense Saturday if Wittek is hurt or pulled by Kiffin due to unsatisfactory play, the coach said Thursday.

Kiffin doesn't believe in rotating quarterbacks under any circumstances.