The quarterback competition really heated up this spring, and while most felt it would be a battle between the two veterans, Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp, freshman Matt Barkley stepped in and immediately challenged Corp for the starting spot.
The highly-touted freshman arrived on campus with a lot of hype and instantly exceeded all expectations by displaying his strong arm and big play ability from the first snap. Barkley has the best arm of any quarterback on the roster and made throws during the spring that Corp and Mustain just couldn't complete.
There is little doubt in the minds of anyone who watched spring practice that Barkley has a rare combination of natural ability and leadership skills that will make a very special player in the years to come, but the young signal-caller also made some rookie mistakes that really cost him in the race to replace Mark Sanchez.
"Matt (Barkley) has had an incredible spring," Carroll said. "He just has been off the charts and beyond our expectations of what a guy could do in his first semester, particularly coming out of high school early.
"He's way ahead of schedule; he's way above the level of what other guys have done as freshmen."
Barkley made the most big plays this spring but he also tried to force the ball at times, and made some questionable throws in the process, which is to be expected of a player making the transition from high school to the college game.
Pete Carroll preaches the importance of limiting turnovers and Barkley must minimize his mistakes before he will be able to take over the reins of the Trojans' offense.
While Matt Barkley provided a lot of the highlights, it was Aaron Corp that seized the starting job by playing nearly mistake-free football throughout the spring.
The redshirt sophomore proved that he had the poise, leadership and intelligence to guide an offense that returns nine starters.
Corp clearly had the best grasp of the offense and only tossed one interception in fifteen practices against the USC secondary, which is considered the best in the nation by many college football analysts.
"He's had a great spring and has done everything that he can to maximize this opportunity at this point," Carroll said during the spring. "He understands the offense, he's moved around well with it and he has really been able to avoid the costly mistakes that you like to see in your starting quarterback."
This offseason Corp has transitioned nicely into his new role, leading the players-only workouts and keeping his teammates focused on the practice field.
Corp doesn't have the fiery demeanor of Mark Sanchez, but he isn't afraid to be vocal and his calming presence in the huddle is a good fit for this group.
Look for Aaron Corp to enter the season as the starting quarterback and we fully expect the redshirt sophomore to do a fine job under center for the Trojans in '09.
Corp is a safe bet because he stays within himself and limits mistakes by making solid reads and understands his ability. He also gives the Trojans a dimension that they haven't had under Carroll, a quarterback that is a true threat to run with the football.
Corps' mobility gives Jeremy Bates several options when calling plays and will cause headaches for every defensive coordinator in the Pac-10. Carroll knows how difficult it is to game plan against dual-threat quarterbacks and loves the idea of having one on his side for a change.
With nine returning starters on offense and several explosive playmakers, the Trojans need a quarterback that can distribute the ball and manages the game, and that is exactly what Corp will do.
Should Corp get injured or struggle early in the season, freshman Matt Barkley could be called upon to take over the starting role.
Like we have said many times before, Barkley is the most impressive freshman quarterback that we have seen at USC, but even he would have some growing pains if thrown into action in his first year.
With that said, Barkley has proven to be a quick study and new quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates wouldn't hesitate to call upon the talented freshman.
Mitch Mustain and Garrett Green are both solid players that will add depth at the quarterback position in 2009, and will only see action due to injuries, or if the coaches decide to redshirt Barkley.
With Aaron Corp at the helm, a future star backing him up, and Mitch Mustain holding down the no.3 spot, USC fans have to be pleased at what they see at the QB position.
QB Depth Check
Aaron Corp – Corp is currently the starting quarterback and we expect that to be the case when the Trojans run out of the tunnel on Sept. 5th to face the San Jose Spartans. He is a talented quarterback with a good, but not great arm, and good mobility. It will be interesting to see changes to the offense with a mobile quarterback and Jeremy Bates calling the plays.
Matt Barkley – Barkley will enter Fall Camp as the backup to Aaron Corp following a stellar showing in his first action in college. Barkley has unlimited upside and will definitely keep the pressure on Corp. The young quarterback needs to focus on learning the offense and limiting mistakes this fall.
Mitch Mustain – Mustain is probably the most talented third-string quarterback that you will find in the country, but he has appeared to lack confidence and motivation at times. It will be interesting to see how Mustain responds to being the no.3 quarterback.
Garrett Green – A great all-around athlete that could start at a good deal of schools across the country. Green is the ultimate utility man, playing several positions in his time at USC. Look for the senior to contribute on special teams in '09.
Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley will compete for the starting spot.
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