Max Wittek limiting his mistakes

How many interceptions has early enrollee quarterback Max Wittek thrown this spring?

Two or three -- he doesn't quite remember. It's the lowest total of any of the Trojans' four scholarship quarterbacks this spring, but it's not low enough for Wittek.

"Personally, I need to get better at that," he said after Tuesday's practice, referencing quarterbacks coach Clay Helton and his constant preaching of interception-free practices. "He emphasizes to all of us as a quarterback group: no turnovers. Today was No Turnover Tuesday and we came out here and we turned the ball over four times.

"As a group we definitely need to get better at that and I definitely need to get better at that."

Wittek is competing with fellow early enrollee Cody Kessler and redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins for the opportunity to back up Matt Barkley come fall and the 2011 season. Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday that Wittek has the arm to win the job but it appears Kessler's the calmer presence of the early enrollee duo -- Scroggins has a better grasp of the playbook because of his half-year early start in the program but the other two are fast studies and trying to get up to Scroggins' level.

To that end, Wittek was raving about coming in for the spring Tuesday and what it could do for his USC career.

"It's been crucial," said Wittek, a Santa Ana Mater Dei product. "To have that much of an edge on the playbook before coming in in the fall is really important. And it's always nice to get used to the whole college environment as a whole."

They're getting used to the college environment, but Kiffin said this week he thought the two freshmen were overwhelmed three months into their USC tenures and seven practices in on the football field.

"A little bit. It'd be impossible not to be," Kiffin said. "I'd imagine Matt, when he was here two years ago, was a little bit too. This is so foreign to any high school playbook."

A difference: when Barkley enrolled in January 2009, he was the only freshman quarterback coming in. He wasn't expected to take the starting job that fall, no, but he was considered a quarterback of the future for the Trojans and a big prospect. With Wittek and Kessler coming in at the same time, only one of them will presumably end up starting for USC -- or, at the very least, one will have to wait quite a while for available playing time.

Still, Wittek is happy to be alongside Kessler for the time being.

"I think it's definitely cool," Wittek said of competing with the Bakersfield product straight-away. "Regardless of where you go you're always gonna compete with someone, and to be able to compete with such a great quarterback, that is very special in itself.

"When you go to a place, you want to be able to say you're the best at what you do and great competition definitely makes you better.