Top five offensive skill players to watch

Max Wittek needs to show the moxie he displayed in the Notre Dame game, and not the inaccuracy he displayed against Georgia Tech, to lock up the starting quarterback job. AP Photo/Danny Moloshok

With winter throwing sessions set to get rolling on campus, here’s a look at five offensive skill players for whom the 7-on-7 workouts figure to be especially crucial as they look to establish themselves heading into next season.

1. QB Max Wittek (6-4, 235, RS So.)

All eyes will be focused on the quarterback position this offseason as the Trojans search for a replacement for four-year starter Matt Barkley. Wittek, who started the final two games of the season in place of an injured Barkley, performed solidly against Notre Dame, but then took a step back when he completed just 14 of 37 passes while being picked off three times in the Trojans’ Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech. Still, with a strong arm and 6-foot-4 size, he certainly has the physical tools to be the quarterback of the future for USC, but he’ll need to prove that his last outing was an anomaly, and something that he’s learned from more than anything else.

2. QB Cody Kessler (6-1, 215, RS So.)

A prolific high school quarterback who completed over 69% of his passes for 2,831 yards and 36 touchdowns as a senior at Bakersfield (Calif.) Centennial, Kessler has a reputation as a gritty performer who has shined at times on the practice field. He does lack experience, however, so he’ll need to make a big impression in the coming months as he tries to make a move for the starting job. How he develops as a leader this winter and meshes with the receiving corps in the passing sessions could play a role in that.

3. QB Max Browne (6-5, 215, Fr.)

Browne, who just started at USC in January as an early entrant, arrives with more accolades than any other signal-caller on the Trojans’ roster and will be in the thick of the quarterback competition as well. But it’s safe to assume that the Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline product has a tough road ahead of him as he adjusts to the speed of the college game while also attempting to get the playbook down. It will be interesting to see just how fast he catches on, and the 7-on-7 workouts will give everyone their first glimpse at his talents.

4. WR Nelson Agholor (6-1, 185, So.)

With Robert Woods now off to the NFL, the Trojans need another receiver to step up to compliment 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee in the starting lineup, and Agholor figures to have the inside track. Working his way up to the role as the team’s No. 3 receiver as a freshman, he showed gamebreaking skills at times, particularly against Oregon when he hauled in six passes for 162 yards and one touchdown. With more reps set to come his way this offseason, this could be his chance to take his game to the next level.

5. WR George Farmer (6-1, 205, Jr.)

Things haven’t exactly gone as planned for Farmer, who arrived on campus as the No. 1 ranked receiver prospect in the Class of 2011, as he’s battled injuries and struggled to see the field. But with an increase in playing time now ripe for the picking, this certainly looks to be his time to potentially make a move. In order to do that, though, Farmer will need to show off the unique playmaking skills that made him such a feared commodity on the high school level on a more consistent basis.