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Max Wittek is tabbed as USC’s No. 2 quarterback

USC fans might get a glimpse into the future during the season opener Saturday against Hawaii.

The Trojans are 40-point favorites, and statistics-conscious USC Coach Lane Kiffin probably won’t pull Heisman Trophy front-runner Matt Barkley before the fourth quarter.

But look for Max Wittek to make his college debut.

Kiffin announced Tuesday that Wittek was the No. 2 quarterback, beating out fellow redshirt freshman Cody Kessler and giving Wittek a possible edge in the competition to succeed Barkley next season.

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“I’m honored and excited for this opportunity,” Wittek said. “I have to be ready every play, every game and keep my head in the game.”

Kiffin said the coaching staff had confidence that both young quarterbacks were capable of running the offense.

“Hopefully,” he said, “we’ll be in a situation at a point this year, or possibly a couple times, where both of them get action.”

Kiffin said the decision to make Wittek the backup would not affect competition for the starting job next spring. Max Browne, a high school quarterback from Sammamish, Wash., who has committed to USC, also is expected to enroll in January to compete for the spot.

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Kiffin informed the quarterbacks separately of the decision.

Wittek said Kiffin initially joked that walk-on John Manoogian would be the No. 2 quarterback before saying, “We’re going with you” and “Stay ready.”

“I’ve tried to keep myself in the mental state of, ‘This job is mine and this is what I came here to do,’ ” said the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Wittek. “I’m not going to say I’m surprised about it, but I’m definitely excited.”

Kessler, 6-1 and 215 pounds, was considered the No. 2 quarterback for most of last season. But he would have played only in an emergency as Kiffin sought to have both young quarterbacks be redshirts.

Kessler said Kiffin told him that the competition with Wittek was close, that coaches feel comfortable with either and that Wittek had a slightly better camp.

“I’m going to just keep focusing and working and keep competing,” Kessler said.

Twitter savvy

USC includes Twitter handles in its players online biographies and also lists them on the depth chart.

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Barkley described it as “a sign of the times and how our world is going more digital.”

“It’s also a reminder to our players that you are on a pedestal,” he added. “No matter if you’re a starter or a backup, the world is watching and you just have to be mindful of what you say, what you tweet.”

Tim Tessalone, USC’s athletic department spokesman, said players are counseled on the use of social media.

“We talk to our kids about being responsible with what they say to the media and what they post on their social media accounts,” he said. “There’s a little bit of a learning curve for them — they’re going to make some mistakes. We understand that. College is where you learn to be an adult.”

Kiffin said he was not involved in the decision to publish the players’ information.

“I don’t care,” he said. “It didn’t have anything to do with winning or losing.”

Quick hits

TMZ.com reported that Barkley was involved in a collision Saturday when the car he was driving allegedly struck a bicyclist as Barkley was leaving a gas station near campus. The report said Barkley assisted the cyclist, who fell from the bike and appeared not to have suffered serious injury. Barkley declined to comment after practice Tuesday. ... Wristbands emblazoned with “Trojan Pride 55" will be distributed to 80,000 spectators at the Hawaii game in honor of the late Junior Seau. The bands will direct fans to an online “Tribute Wall.” A moment of silence for Seau and former Trojans lineman Fred Matua, who died this month, also will be observed. ... Spanish-language FOX Deportes announced that it will broadcast USC’s game against Hawaii and the Trojans’ game at Stanford on Sept. 15.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein


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