Corp or Barkley? Barkley or Corp?
That continues to be the hot topic in the minds of USC fans everywhere.
No matter who is eventually named the starter for the season opener against San Jose State, they will have the luxury of playing behind one of the deepest and most talented lines in college football.
"I really want our offensive line to help our young quarterbacks," Pat Ruel said. "We have to be able to run the ball well and we have to be able to protect the quarterbacks.
"It's our job to help these young quarterbacks come along."
Like the quarterback position, the offensive line has been hit by injuries. All-Pac-10 center Kristofer O'Dowd and Nick Howell are currently sidelined.
O'Dowd suffered a dislocated kneecap and Howell has a high-ankle sprain.
"I have made about four or five guys centers. When Kristofer O'Dowd went down there was still four centers in the program that know how to snap the ball and make calls," Ruel said. "I am the fifth guy, so if we get that low then we are in trouble."
Ruel has juggled the rotation throughout the fall in an effort to prepare his unit for any scenario they may face this season.
"I am preparing for all possible situations that can come up," Ruel said. "This way when something happens like at Washington two years ago where we lost two guys in one play you can send two guys in there and they go, ‘Hey no big deal we have all done this before.'"
"People say that you lose the continuity but I don't think you lose much continuity. I am more concerned with them being able to react to tough situations. If we lose a guy they can jump in and it doesn't matter."
The versatility and depth along the line is one of the main reasons that the current group has the potential to be one of the best in the Carroll era.
"I am blessed because I have some older guys and some younger guys, and they are all good enough for us to win," Ruel said.
Along with adding stability and depth, Ruel said teaching his players to play more than one position also prepares them for the NFL.
"In pro football, you have to be versatile and play a couple of positions," he said. "I want to help these guys play at the next level, so I need to train them to play two positions at least."
The veteran offensive line coach added that helping his players achieve their dreams is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.
"The No.1 issue is the team first, but part of my job is to train these guys so that they can mentally and physically handle it," Ruel said. "A lot of them come out of high school dreaming to go to USC. When they get to USC they dream of going to the NFL.
"I am trying to help some of their dreams come true. I want to help them achieve their dreams."
Byers and Parsons have both received time at center and guard and Pete Carroll said that sixth-year senior Jeff Byers will start at center for Saturday's scrimmage.
- USC quarterback Aaron Corp looked sharp on Wednesday, completing 9-of-11 passes with touchdown tosses to Damian Williams and Ronald Johnson during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11. Corp looked more comfortable than he did on Tuesday and continues to make good progress.
"I thought he did good today. He had no fallout from yesterday, which is really positive," Carroll said. "It's clear that he is on the recovery and he is close."
- Sixth-year senior Jeff Byers has played center with the first-team offense the last two days and will start at center for Saturday's scrimmage.
"It's like having a coach on the field," Ruel said of Byers. "He can get the guys going when they need to get going. He can settle guys down when they need to settle down and he can help make adjustments from the field, which will be a really big plus for us."
"There are three guys there right now that are in the mix, and we would expect all three guys to play," Carroll said. "Wes (Horton) has been the most consistent guy there, Nick Perry has been playing that spot and done a lot of good things, and Malik (Jackson) has a lot of play making in him."
Carroll said the coaches will re-evaluate the situation after Saturday's scrimmage.
- The starting offensive line on Wednesday consisted of: Tyron Smith (RT), Alex Parsons (RG), Jeff Byers (C), Butch Lewis (LG) and Charles Brown (LT).
- Sophomore tight end Blake Ayles returned to action after undergoing a heart procedure last week.
- The Trojans practice at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
Nick Perry is one of three players in the rotation at strong-side defensive end.
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