Max Wittek came to USC as a highly touted early enrollee in the spring of 2011. Immediately named the heir apparent to fellow Mater Dei-Santa Ana High School graduate Matt Barkley, Wittek struggled to live up to high expectations and is set to transfer from USC after the spring semester.
Daily Trojan associate managing editor Will Laws sat down with Wittek Tuesday to discuss his time at USC and his future plans.
DT: What went into your decision to transfer?
Wittek: Thinking about everything, the fact I’ll have my degree from USC [in May], I think that’s really irreplaceable. Then the fact I’ll have two years to play, and I’ll be able to play right away … I don’t want to say it’s a new beginning, but it is, essentially. It came down to a feel for me. Just being here, I’ve had such a great time, but I’m able to move on and play for two years somewhere else while I work on my Master’s — couldn’t really pass that up.
DT: There were some reports that came out that said when Sarkisian was hired, you had been convinced to stay. Was that true?
Wittek: No, that wasn’t true. I talked to him a couple times and he said the position is open. But again, I took it down to every little level, playing with all the scenarios in my head, and I ended up coming to the decision that the best thing for me would be to get a USC degree and then move on.
DT: Have you started to narrow down the schools yet?
Wittek: No, not really. It’s only just begun, really. I’ve been getting a lot of calls, getting a lot of emails, so it’s definitely fun being able to go through this recruiting process twice. I get five more visits, so being able to see some great universities is going to be very valuable.
DT: What are you going to be looking for in a school at this point in your career?
Wittek: I’m going to be looking for a great relationship with the coaching staff. Being a graduate student, my class obligations will probably be less than what they have been. So I’m going to be spending a lot of extra time with [the coaches]. And then really, just a place I enjoy being and a place I’ll be able to go out on the field and show what I can do.
DT: Will you favor a smaller school where you might have a starting spot waiting for you or a bigger school with more program prestige?
Wittek: These are all things that’ll go into the decision. Like you said, a smaller school probably has a better chance of saying, “The second you step on campus, we’re gonna name you the starter”. It’ll be a pretty big factor. Regardless of where you are, as long as you get something on tape, you have a better chance [to make it to the NFL] than if you don’t. So it’ll definitely be a big factor, but we’ll see how it plays out.
DT: Over your time at USC, you’ve competed a lot with Cody Kessler. Before the starting job, even, for the backup spot behind Matt Barkley. What was the dynamic between you guys during all that?
Wittek: It’s actually been pretty incredible. We never had any bad blood at any moment. When you come to a place like USC, you expect to have competition every single day. That’s what makes places like USC so great. Myself and Cody, we pushed each other to become who we are today. I think he’d say the same. I wouldn’t be the same quarterback without him, and I don’t think he’d be the same quarterback without me. We’ve always had a good relationship.
DT: Do you think the Washington State loss forced Kiffin’s hand to make a decision at that point?
Wittek: Yeah, absolutely. Basically the way everything unfolded, he was put in a position he had to make a decision. And that’s just the way the cookie crumbled. A lot of people ask me, “Do you think what happened was unfair?” and I just say the same thing: Whether it was fair or unfair, it was the reality of the situation. I’m not going to dwell on if I think I got [benched] fairly. I’ve enjoyed every second I’ve had at USC, and I’m going to enjoy the rest of the semester at this great place, get my degree and move on.
DT: So when you look back at your time at USC, what do you think will be your favorite memory?
Wittek: I’d probably say my first year here when we went 10-2. There were 2 games that stuck out in my mind. Obviously neither myself nor Cody [was] playing at that point, but we learned a lot that year. Going into Notre Dame and Oregon and winning both those games pretty convincingly, those were really cool moments. Being with the whole team and feeling that atmosphere, those were things I’ll never forget.
DT: On the other end of the spectrum, was there a bottom point that sticks out?
Wittek: I almost can’t even say there was a bottom point. Obviously, with my competitive nature, I would’ve liked to play last year. That’s just the reality. But I wouldn’t call it a bottom point. I got to spend a lot of time with these teammates that I’ve grown to love. I’ve gotten a lot of support, and a lot of these relationships have been built off respect. Everyone that I’ve talked to has just been like, “Dude, go do your thing, you’re gonna be the man somewhere else”. So it’s hard for me to say I’ve had a bottom point. Even when I’m telling everyone that I’m leaving, all the love and support I’ve gotten has just been incredible.