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“"I think sometimes what's good is to be so young that you don't know," Kiffin said. "I think he's just gonna go out and play." Wittek, ESPN's 3rd-ranked quarterback in the class of 2011, is replacing the injured Matt Barkley, who suffered an AC sprain in his right shoulder in USC's 38-28 loss to UCLA on Saturday. Barkley, a four-year starter for the Trojans, has been ruled out for Notre Dame but could still play in USC's bowl game next month. Wittek has been his primary backup all season, appearing in three games and completing 8-of-9 pass attempts for 95 yards and a touchdown.
I'm gonna go out there, I'm gonna play within myself, within the system, and we're gonna win this ballgame.” -- Max Wittek, USC quarterback
Wittek also took over for Barkley in high school, at Santa Ana Mater Dei, where Barkley started from 2005-2008 and Wittek helmed the team in 2009 and 2010. Both players enrolled early out of Mater Dei. Barkley won the Trojans' starting job immediately under former coach Pete Carroll, while Wittek redshirted his first year while behind fellow freshman Cody Kessler on the depth chart.
"He's played in big games before, and he's a tough kid. I think he's gonna have a great performance." Barkley also said Wittek has the necessary tools to excel against the Irish. "He's got a gun," Barkley said. "I think he will let it rip." Barkley showed up to USC's Tuesday practice halfway through the session, with a sling supporting his shoulder. Afterward, he said he was dealing with the disappointment of his collegiate career potentially being over. "To not be able to suit up and be with my guys, it's gonna suck," Barkley said. "But I don't think one game will define my time at USC. It's been a tremendous journey." Barkley led the Trojans to two wins over Notre Dame on the road but never got the chance to host the Irish at the Coliseum. He sat out of the November 2010 game because of a sprained ankle, and Mitch Mustain started the Trojans' 20-16 loss. It's possible Barkley could still play in the Trojans' bowl game this season, depending on the bowl and his recovery process. AC sprains typically require 2-8 weeks of rehab. USC could play its bowl game as early as Dec. 22, which would be five weeks from the day of the injury, and as late as Dec. 31, just over six weeks from the UCLA game.