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USC's Max Wittek and Cody Kessler stick to script on QB competition

Quarterbacks Max Wittek and Cody Kessler say little about who'll start against Washington State. Marqise Lee, though, flubs his lines.

September 03, 2013|By Gary Klein
  • USC quarterback Cody Kessler might start again for the Trojans when they play host to Washington State on Saturday.
USC quarterback Cody Kessler might start again for the Trojans when they… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek played it close to the vest on Tuesday.

Receiver Marqise Lee tried, with mixed results.

The USC players awkwardly attempted not to reveal the starting quarterback for Saturday's Pac-12 Conference opener against Washington State, a mystery Coach Lane Kiffin has continued for another week despite its potential for becoming a distraction.

Kiffin told reporters on Sunday that he had chosen a starter, but he declined to reveal who it would be, explaining that he did not want to subject the quarterbacks to scrutiny and criticism.

A person with knowledge of the situation told The Times on Sunday that Kessler and Wittek were informed that the plan would be similar to the one employed for the Trojans' 30-13 victory at Hawaii: Kessler will start, but Wittek also will play. The person requested anonymity because the plan was relayed in confidence.

The designated, though unnamed, starter got the majority of first-team reps during practice on Tuesday, Kiffin said.

Meantime, players tried not to let anything slip with reporters and fellow students.

"Thank God I only had one class today," Wittek said, grinning, "so no questions."

"People I haven't talked to in a while are just blowing my phone up," Kessler said, adding, "All these random people — 'Hey, we're going to buy tickets. Are you starting? Let me know.'"

When Lee was asked which quarterback threw him the most passes Tuesday, he said, "Cody was in there for most of the time." Then he quickly changed course and said, "Max Wittek actually threw a lot of passes today." Lee also said classmates "hit me with the same question: Who's throwing you the ball in practice?"

Both quarterbacks said they were preparing as if they would start.

"You try to support both guys," center Marcus Martin said. "You don't try to play favorites, and you try to give each guy as much love and support as you can."

Lee rebounds

Lee has put behind him the two passes he dropped in the opener and is preparing for coverage schemes similar to the one Hawaii employed.

He said he anticipated that Kiffin would "try to bring out some more plays to actually open it up for everybody."

Quick hits

Tailback Silas Redd declined to elaborate on the procedure Dr. James Andrews performed on his knee last week in Florida. Redd has not participated in contact drills since undergoing major knee surgery last spring. …. Cornerback Anthony Brown, who suffered an undisclosed injury against Hawaii, did not dress for practice. Cornerback Kevon Seymour, who also suffered an injury in the opener, was in full uniform…. Linebacker Morgan Breslin, sidelined for the Hawaii game because of injury, was in uniform Tuesday, but Kiffin declined to discuss whether he practiced.

Twitter: @latimesklein

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