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Max Wittek's injury may alter dynamics of QB battle

USC FOOTBALL

Quarterback Max Wittek sits out practice because of knee injury. It isn't considered serious, but the other candidates, Cody Kessler and Max Browne, could benefit.

March 12, 2013|By Gary Klein
  • Max Wittek did not practice with his Trojan teammates on Tuesday because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
Max Wittek did not practice with his Trojan teammates on Tuesday because… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

USC's quarterback competition could take a slight turn in the next week because of a knee injury suffered by Max Wittek.

Wittek did not practice Tuesday because, he said, of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Wittek was injured Saturday during a drill before the Trojans' scrimmage at the Coliseum. On Tuesday, he wore a brace on his right leg and said he might sit out Thursday and Saturday before the Trojans break for a week.

"If there's ever a time for this to happen, I guess it would be right now," said Wittek, who is competing against fellow third-year sophomore Cody Kessler and freshman Max Browne.

Receiver Marqise Lee was in uniform, but he also was held out because of a knee injury suffered during a drill Saturday. Coach Lane Kiffin said neither Lee's nor Wittek's injury was serious and expected both would return by the time the Trojans practice March 26, if not later this week.

Wittek said he would spend time working on his mental game, including watching film with individual teammates.

"Sometimes," he said, "that's a little bit better than physical stuff."

With Wittek sidelined for the first time since arriving at USC in January 2011, Kessler and Browne shared all the snaps.

Though Kiffin said Wittek's absence would not set him back, the increased workload with the No. 1 offense could benefit Kessler, who lacks the game experience Wittek obtained in starts against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech.

But Kessler, who performed efficiently in Saturday's scrimmage, said he hoped Wittek would not be sidelined for long.

"We're hoping he has a fast recovery and gets back out here soon," Kessler said.

Meanwhile, Browne continued to experience growing pains. Fellow early enrollee and roommate Su'a Cravens intercepted two of his passes.

"I'm sure I'll hear about it all night," Browne quipped. "As long as I'm learning from it, that's all I can ask."

Cravens, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound safety who starred at Vista Murrieta High, appears on track for extended playing time in the fall.

"One of the offensive coaches said, 'He looks like a senior in college out there,'" Kiffin said.

Quick hits

Kiffin said Tuesday was not one of the Trojans' better practices, citing a not-unexpected letdown after two spirited workouts to start spring practice and the excitement surrounding the scrimmage at the Coliseum. . . . Monte Kiffin, USC's former assistant head coach for defense, visited practice. He is now the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator. Lane Kiffin said his father arrived in town Sunday. "I'm thinking to myself, 'What's he going to do?'" Lane Kiffin said. "He's not going to sit at home . . . he's a prisoner of this game. Sure enough, the next morning, about 9 a.m., I got a text, 'Hey, you think I can come up?' . . . It was good." . . . Former USC All-American offensive lineman Tony Boselli addressed the team after practice.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesklein

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