Max Wittek: The graduate transfer who wasn't

Texas had an insurance plan at quarterback if David Ash suffered another head injury - as he did against North Texas Saturday. But that plan took a left turn when former USC quarterback Max Wittek failed to graduate in the spring. HornsDigest has learned the real story.

Hawaii sports information director Derek Inouchi confirmed Monday that former USC quarterback Max Wittek is working as the scout-team quarterback for Norm Chow's Warriors as a walk-on ineligible to play in games this season.

"He looked good simulating Washington's quarterback last week," Inouchi said, referring to Hawaii's opponent Saturday in a 17-16 loss to the Huskies in Honolulu.

Inouchi confirmed that Wittek was ineligible this season because he did not graduate from USC, which would have triggered automatic transfer eligibility for Wittek (so long as the school Wittek transferred to had a graduate program his current school didn't offer).

Texas thought Wittek was going to graduate in the spring - after taking a reported 22 hours - and then transfer to Texas.

Wittek told me in February after visiting Texas for the first time that he really connected with Shawn Watson that he thought Charlie Strong was a coach he could play for and that he planned to approach football like a job as a graduate transfer - constantly in his coaches' offices studying film.

Wittek visited Austin three times, the last time during UT's spring game in April. Wittek told Longhorn players during his last visit that his plan was to go to Texas. But then Wittek failed to graduate, and a transfer with immediate eligibility was no longer a possibility. Texas coaches were stunned.

Sources close to the situation said Wittek was actually kicked out of school at USC during the spring semester for violating the school's student conduct code, terminating all the course work he had done in the 22 credit hours he was taking.

USC is a private school, not subject to federal open records laws, so obtaining information on what may have happened with Wittek at USC is hard to come by. Officials at USC have declined comment.

Wittek has not responded to repeated interview requests, including a call from HornsDigest.com Monday that went straight to voicemail.

Texas coaches aggressively pursued Wittek (6-4, 215), a four-star recruit out of Mater Dei High School in California who ultimately struggled to distinguish himself at USC (3 TDs and 6 INTs in 14 appearances in 2012 and 2013) after Matt Barkley left for the NFL.

Wittek had a good relationship with Texas RB coach Tommie Robinson in Robinson's one season at USC last year.

But once Wittek failed to graduate in the spring, Texas cut off its recruitment of Wittek, who ultimately transferred to Hawaii as a walk-on.

And by the time everything fell apart with Wittek in May, it was too late for Texas to find another option at QB. UT coaches scoured the junior college ranks but didn't find someone they liked enough to offer a scholarship.

Logan Vinklarek, who completed 54 percent of his passes for 485 yards with 3 TDs and 4 INTs in mop-up duty at QB for Blinn Community College last season, transferred to UT as a preferred walk-on in June.

A three-year starter at La Grange High School who took visits to Rice, Houston and Louisiana Tech before enrolling at Blinn last fall, Vinklarek (6-2, 220) will have three years of eligibility at Texas.

Texas also has walk-on QB Trey Holtz, the grandson of Lou Holtz, behind the injured David Ash (concussion symptoms), sophomore Tyrone Swoopes, who will start against BYU Saturday, and freshman Jerrod Heard.

Meanwhile, Wittek is currently trying to finish his undergraduate degree at Hawaii, Inouchi said.

Wittek would have had two years of eligibility remaining if he had been a graduate transfer in the spring. But because he's sitting out this year after redshirting at USC as a freshman, Wittek will have only one year of eligibility under Norm Chow at Hawaii after this season.

"He's a big, strong kid who looks good operating an offense - granted its a scout-team offense," Inouchi said.

Earlier this year, Texas coaches were convinced Wittek would have been a big, strong kid capable of running their offense in Austin as an insurance policy if something happened to David Ash.