Kessler, Wittek still even at quarterback

It's been nine days since Jesse Scroggins hurt the thumb on his throwing hand in the Trojans' first scrimmage of the fall at the Coliseum and six days since he underwent surgery to fix the torn ligaments.

But it feels like it's been a lot longer, as Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, the other two players competing to back up Matt Barkley at quarterback, have pushed him almost completely out of the conversation over the last week and a half.

Both players, early enrollees this spring, have made big improvements since arriving on campus and even noticeable improvements in the first two weeks of fall camp, which Wednesday marked.

“Both guys are doing great," Kiffin said Wednesday when asked to assess how the backup QB race was going, not mentioning Scroggins at all. "They’re doing real well – almost to a surprising level, how well they can handle the offense.

“I think they’re doing well, and neither has separated from the other.”

Earlier on in camp, it appeared Kessler was pushing ahead of Wittek -- and Scroggins, too, when he was healthy and involved in the competition. But Wittek's performance at the Coliseum on Sunday appears to have closed whatever gap was there, and the players have looked fairly similar of late.

With backup quarterbacks, there's always a sort of dichotomy between them and the starter: Can they run the same stuff? Or do the coaches have to dumb it down a little bit and simplify certain things in the playbook to allow them to feel more comfortable in game situations.

But Kiffin says Wittek and Kessler are already doing everything Barkley does, although not necessarily to the same level of success.

“We don’t really call any different plays,” Kiffin said. “Obviously we’re not in a game week, but we just go down the list and when it’s their turn, the script’s the same.”