With Matt Barkley firmly entrenched as the starter for the past two seasons, there’s no doubt who will be under center for USC when the Trojans take the field in early September for the season opener. Should, though, the junior go down with an injury as he has in both of his seasons as a starter, who would replace Barkley?
While that remains an uncertainty, we now know who that player won’t be, at least for the first portion of the season.
Jesse Scroggins, one of three quarterbacks vying for the backup job behind Barkley, underwent surgery Thursday to repair an injured thumb on his right (throwing) hand. The redshirt freshman suffered the injury during a scrimmage Monday.
The visit to a hand specialist to determine the extent of the damage was not a surprise to head coach Lane Kiffin. The surgical procedure that came out of that evaluation, however, was.
“It was a surprise,” Kiffin said Scroggins’ surgery. “We did it quick for obvious reasons. But as of [Wednesday] I did not think that it was going to be that severe.”
The initial prognosis is that Scroggins could miss up to eight weeks. The far end of such a timeline would leave Scroggins sidelined through the first week of October.
So, with Scroggins apparently out for an extended period of time, the battle for the backup job has, at least temporarily, been whittled to two: true freshmen Cody Kessler and Max Wittek. Conventional wisdom had Scroggins ahead of the others coming out of spring practice — both were early enrollees — but each had reportedly closed whatever gap had been there after summer camp commenced.
Kiffin said he doesn’t have a pecking order set on the QB depth chart, which was the case before Scroggins’ injury. There will be, though, more opportunities for both Kessler and Wittek to prove they deserve to be Barkley’s understudy heading into the season.
“It has allowed me and Cody to take more reps and compete with each other more,” Wittek said. “Any time you’re allowed to get more reps and get more of a comfort level, the more opportunity you have to get better.”