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USC's depth chart offers little information on Matt Barkley's backup

USC Coach Lane Kiffin releases the depth chart Sunday and lists as the backup quarterback Max Wittek 'OR' Cody Kessler. Both redshirt freshmen feel confident in their abilities. Kiffin says he will have news on Tuesday.

August 27, 2012|By Gary Klein

Lane Kiffin said he would have news on Tuesday.

The depth chart USC released Sunday night revealed no clues.

The competition to become quarterback Matt Barkley's backup, and possible eventual successor, has been one of the most intriguing Trojans subplots heading into the opener Saturday against Hawaii.

Redshirt freshmen Max Wittek and Cody Kessler both enrolled in January 2011 and have been competing for more than a year to get the inside track on becoming Barkley's heir apparent.

The depth chart lists Barkley as the starter followed by Wittek "OR" Kessler.

Both performed well in a mock game Saturday and in a workout Sunday.

"I feel great with where I stand, great with what I put on film and my physical and mental tools," Wittek said after practice. "I feel like I've only gotten better and better every day."

Kessler also expressed confidence.

"I feel like I've played well, did everything they asked me and played as hard as I could," he said.

Brown starts

Third-year sophomore Anthony Brown, who started two games in 2011, is listed as a starting cornerback opposite Nickell Robey. Brown replaced injured Torin Harris last season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury that required surgery.

Returning starter Curtis McNeal and Penn State transfer Silas Redd are listed as co-starters at tailback.

Junior De'Von Flournoy and freshman Nelson Agholor are Marqise Lee's backups at flanker; sophomore George Farmer is listed as Robert Woods' backup at split end.

Sophomore J.R. Tavai is listed as a starting defensive end opposite senior Wes Horton.

Junior Demetrius Wright and senior Jawanza Starling are co-starters at strong safety.

Woods and McNeal or Lee will return kickoffs, Robey or Woods punts.

Robey ready

In 2010, Robey was a true freshman playing in his first game. Much has changed since the Trojans defeated Hawaii in a sloppy 49-36 victory at Honolulu.

The defense was particularly shaky in Kiffin's first game as head coach.

"At first, we were all over the place," Robey recalled. "Now we have the defense. It's going to be like night and day."

Kiffin hopes so.

"That just feels like it was 100 years ago," he said, adding, "At that time, we were so focused on staying healthy — we were paper-thin on defense.

"We played basically the same 11 players the whole game. We're a better team, obviously, but I think we coach better too."

Negrete earns scholarship

Senior punter Kyle Negrete, who started last season as a walk-on, was awarded a scholarship.

USC must report to the NCAA on Monday, the first day of classes, which players will be on scholarship this season. Per its NCAA sanctions, USC can have no more than 75 scholarship players, 10 fewer than the allowable maximum.

"We're not an issue where we're over," Kiffin said.

USC is still awaiting word on the status of incoming freshman receiver Darreus Rogers, who is awaiting clearance from the NCAA's Eligibility Center.

Quick hits

Kiffin, who refused to discuss injuries during training camp, announced a policy barring the media from reporting injury-related news observed during in-season practices. ... The Trojans are off Monday and will resume practice Tuesday. As it did in 2011, USC will practice in the morning during the season.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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