USC lands top QB recruit in Wittek

LOS ANGELES -- After hauling in one of the top recruiting classes in the country less than a month after he was hired, USC coach Lane Kiffin is getting a head start on next year's class. Mater Dei quarterback Max Wittek, one of the most highly recruited quarterbacks in the nation, told ESPNLosAngeles.com he has decided to go to USC.

"I'm going to USC," said Wittek, who had received offers from over a dozen schools including UCLA, Notre Dame, Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Nebraska. "I had a checklist of things I wanted in a program and everywhere else had a few of them but every time I thought about it, it came back to USC and it ended up being the school I was always thinking about. Obviously their legacy of quarterbacks in the past few years has been great."

Former Mater Dei quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Matt Barkley have contributed to that legacy, although Mater Dei football coach Bruce Rollinson believes the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Wittek separates himself with his ability to move the ball with his feet.

"Max is, foot-speed wise, faster than the others," Rollinson said. "His straight-ahead speed is worth noting. I'm not a big 40-yard dash guy but I would imagine if I did he'd run a 4.6."

Wittek, who completed 136 of 230 passes for 2,126 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season, said he chose to announce his intentions nearly a year before he had to because he wanted to focus on winning a championship his senior year after going 6-5 last season.

"I didn't want this to be the biggest deal like picking a hat on TV," said Wittek, who moved from Connecticut to California before high school to play football at Mater Dei. "I just wanted to feel confident in my decision that it was the right place for me and just get it out of the way so I can focus on my team and school. We got a good team coming back and I want to win a championship."

Wittek is familiar with USC's offense after working with Steve Clarkson, the same private quarterbacks coach used by Leinart and Barkley, and talking about his decision with Barkley, whom he backed up his sophomore year. Wittek will likely redshirt during Barkley's junior season and back him up his senior year if Barkley doesn't go pro.

"My relationship with Matt has always been great," said Wittek, who ran for 189 yards and two touchdowns last season. "We spent so much time together at Mater Dei, watching film, at practices and games. I see him a lot when I go to USC and I work out with him every once in a while. We call and text all the time and it's going to be great to play together again."

Wittek said his relationships with Kiffin, recruiting coordinator Ed Oregeron and quarterbacks coach Clay Helton were also key to his decision.

"They have a way to relate to you, I immediately built a great relationship with all of them," Wittek said. "I'm really excited to start helping them build this recruiting class up more. I'm going to start helping them out now to make this is a great class."

Arash Markazi is a writer and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.