Thursday, January 6, 2011
Scouting prospects at All-American game
By Pedro Moura
Quarterback Max Wittek (Corona Del Mar, Calif./Mater Dei) looked like one of the most poised players of them all at Wednesday's Under Armour All-American Game in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Wittek, a USC signee who will enroll at the school and begin taking classes Monday, was flat-out sharp as the starting quarterback for the White Team. He nearly led his team to victory, completing 14-of-24 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns but falling just short on a last-second Red Team field goal.
What did Wittek, specifically, do well?
He showed a strong arm -- stronger than he has been credited with, certainly -- and the ability to put mistakes behind him quickly and rebound well.
His first throw was a clear overthrow, but he rebounded well and truly got stronger as the game went on, capping it off with a 49-yard scoring pass with fewer than two minutes remaining. The throw went at least 40 yards down the right sideline and was perfectly on target for his receiver to beat the trailing safety. Earlier on that drive Wittek also showed some mobility with a 10-yard scramble for a first down, on which he also evaded No. 1 national prospect Jadeveon Clowney (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe) rushing off the edge.
At one point in the first half, he completed seven straight passes -- no small feat when considering that the players on each side had played together for less than a week.
Three other USC commits also participated in the game, as well as a host of players USC continues to recruit with National Signing Day approaching in less than a month.
Here's what stood out: offensive linemen Christian Westerman (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) and Cyrus Kouandjio (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha) looked great playing together on the Red Team offensive line. Kouandjio was playing left tackle for the first time; Westerman played right guard.
Neither player is expected to choose USC as a final destination -- Westerman is a verbal commit to Texas, Kouandjio's older brother goes to Alabama -- but both could seriously challenge to start as first-year freshmen in 2011 if they ended up coming. The Trojans' offensive line has little to no depth for next season.
Kicker Andre Heidari (Bakersfield, Calif./Stockdale) and long snapper Peter McBride (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) both did just about everything right. Heidari, who served as the placekicker, punter and kickoff specialist, did miss one PAT, but that was the lone exception.
The two USC-committed defensive linemen playing in the game -- tackle Antwaun Woods (Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft) and end Greg Townsend Jr. (Beverly Hills, Calif./Beverly Hills) -- didn't do anything extraordinary, but both players held their own at a high level. Townsend Jr. also committed to the Trojans during halftime of the game, picking the school over his father's alma mater, TCU.
Safety Marqise Lee (Gardena, Calif./Serra), another player USC is recruiting, had a a key forced fumble in the first half when Ohio State-committed quarterback Braxton Miller (Huber Heights, Oh./Wayne) attempted to get a first down by running down the sideline -- which led to a key score for the Red Team.
The next stage of the recruiting trail?
Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl, where five more USC commits -- quarterback Cody Kessler (Bakersfield, Calif./Centennial), linebacker Tre Madden (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo) receivers Victor Blackwell (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), George Farmer (Gardena, Calif./Serra) and athlete DeAnthony Thomas (Los Angeles, Calif./Crenshaw) -- and a host of other prospects the Trojans continue to recruit will be playing.