Jesse Scroggins

Fight for USC’s backup QB job takes unexpected injury twist


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.”

Starting Navy S Kwazel Bertrand undergoes surgery, likely out for season

Kwazel Bertrand, Jacobi Owens
Associated Press
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Navy has seen one of its most productive players on the defensive side of the ball play for perhaps the final time this season.

Kwazel Bertrand sustained a broken ankle in the win over Air Force last Saturday, head coach Ken Niumatalolo confirmed earlier this week. As a result, the defensive back will very likely miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

And, because he is a senior and has no other eligibility avenues to pursue, it would effectively end his collegiate career as well.

“I feel terrible for Kwazel. It’s really unfortunate any time a senior goes down with a season-ending injury,” Niumatalolo said. “Kwazel has been a really good player for us and we’re going to miss his presence out on the field.”

Bertrand started 27 games over the past three-plus seasons, including all four in 2015.

Unitas Award whittles watch list in half down to 15

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 03:  Trevone Boykin #2 of the TCU Horned Frogs looks for an open receiver against the Texas Longhorns in the second quarter at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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You know how I know we’re gradually creeping up on the end of another regular season?  Watch lists are being whittled.

The first major honor to do so is the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given out annually to the best quarterback who is a college senior or fourth-year junior.  The preseason watch list was 30 quarterbacks strong; the newest list has been cut in half to 15.

The most recent list includes one of the top Heisman contenders (TCU’s Trevone Boykin) and the top two nationally in passing yards (Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson, Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty), as well as a quarterback who’s closing in on the all-time FBS record for rushing touchdowns (Navy’s Keenan Reynolds).

The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three watch listers, followed by two each from the AAC, ACC and Big Ten.  The SEC has as many players (one, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott) as the FCS (North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz).

Last year’s winner was Marcus Mariota of Oregon.

Trevone Boykin, TCU
Jacoby Brissett, NC State
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Brandon Doughty, WKU
Everett Golson, Florida State
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Matt Johnson, Bowling Green
Cody Kessler, USC
Paxton Lynch, Memphis
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
Carson Wentz, N. Dakota State
Marquise Williams, North Carolina
Travis Wilson, Utah