Thursday Practice: Behind the QB Decision

It wasn't surprising that Pete Carroll decided to announce his starting quarterback on Thursday, but the choice certainly caught many people off guard. Look inside to see why Carroll named Matt Barkley the starter.

It wasn't surprising that Pete Carroll decided to announce his starting quarterback on Thursday, but the choice certainly caught many people off guard.

After suffering a dislocated kneecap on Aug.10th, Aaron Corp returned to practice Tuesday and while still limited he looked very sharp, leading most in the media to believe that Corp would be the eventual pick to lead the Trojans against San Jose State.

But Carroll called an audible of his own on Thursday announcing that Matt Barkley will be the Trojans' starting quarterback, following his impressive performance this spring and fall camp.

"Matt's been remarkable. He's just had a great introduction to Trojan football from the springtime all the way through everything we've done here," Carroll explained. "He's just done an exemplary job in every phase of everything. I can't explain how a guy this young and this new could do that, but he's done it. And it's been clear, and we have enough information."

Carroll and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates came to a final decision Thursday morning and then alerted the first-year quarterback of the good news.

"Coach Carroll and I have just been talking day by day and today we decided to do it," Bates said. "We just thought that Matt has earned it."

Barkley was thrilled to learn that all of his hard work had paid off.

"He called me in after class. Coach Bates just said to come on up after class. I thought we were watching film or something," Barkley said. "I walked into Coach Carroll's office and he said congratulations. You're the starter for San Jose State.

"It's a dream come true. It really is. It's such an honor to be added to the list of all the great quarterbacks who have played here. I was speechless when Coach told me and just so happy at the same time. But it's really an honor, and I know I have to live up to it. It's going to be fun year."

When Barkley takes the field on Sept. 5th he will be the first true freshman quarterback in school history to start the season opener.

Barkley received the vast majority of the first-team reps when Corp was sidelined with a cracked fibula and really took hold of the No.1 spot.

"The opportunity that was presented to him when Aaron went down gave him an opportunity to see tons and tons of plays," Carroll said. "He saw maybe twice as many plays as he would have seen otherwise.

"He got all of the work he could get against the ones, then he worked against the twos as well. So he has that experience behind him to show us whether he could hang with the speed of a pretty good defense and good, quality personnel on the other side."

The freshman quarterback, who Carroll has raved about since his arrival at USC, showed that he had the ability, poise and leadership skills needed to be the leader of the offense.

"Physically he's right and ready. He's got a great arm. His mentality is right. His competitiveness is on the mark," Carroll said. "His leadership ability with older guys in the huddle has been outstanding and remarkable. All of that just added up; this is the right time."

Carroll has coached several big-time quarterbacks at USC like Matt Leinart, Matt Cassel, John David Booty and Mark Sanchez, but none have been as advanced in their freshman year as Barkley.

"He's like a guy who's been here for a few years, you know? It's like a veteran," Carroll said. "It's no different than dealing with Leinart or Sanchez or the guys who've been around the system for a while.

"I don't know how you learn it as fast as he did, but he just has a savvy for it."

While Corp's injury opened the door for the strong-armed freshman, Coach Bates said the decision was based on Barkley's ability, and not the fact that Corp still has limited mobility.

"Right now Matt earned it. It's not based on injuries or anything like that," Bates said. "Matt had an opportunity to take every rep with the ones for the past two and a half weeks and he has taken advantage of every opportunity."

Barkley has the best arm of the quarterbacks on the Trojans' roster and no one will argue with his big play ability but the young signal caller has also thrown his fair share of interceptions.

"He has made a couple of mistakes, but he comes back in the film room and he has grown with each mistake, and proven that he isn't going to make the same mistake twice," Bates said. "He's very coachable, so we are excited that he is our starting quarterback and we are looking into the future as it being very bright."

Carroll has always preached the benefits of winning the turnover battle, so limiting mistakes will be the key for Barkley going forward.

"We're going to try to do everything we can to stay within the guidelines that have made us successful over the years," Carroll said when asked if he could live with more turnovers. "We have a tremendous record when we have a plus ratio. That's a huge statistic that we live and die with.

"Matt has to do that as well. We're not making any concessions because he's a freshman."

With nine returning starters on the offensive side of the ball, Barkley isn't going to be asked to win the game on his own, which is exactly what the coaches have stressed to him.

"I think it is an awesome situation that we have such a good offensive line, running backs and wide receivers," Bates said. "We have ten great players on the field every down that are going to help our quarterbacks."

While starting a freshman at quarterback is always a risk, Carroll has stated time and again that Matt Barkley isn't your average freshman.

"He's not a typical freshman. He's not acted in any way like anybody else we've seen here, and I'm talking about Matt and John David and Mark and all those guys," Carroll said. "None of them were like this. And I've been telling you that from the start. I didn't really know why.

"I tried to use that illustration about him being an outlier. He's just different in that regard."


Matt Barkley was named the Trojans' starting quarterback on Thursday.


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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden at kevin@scplaybook.com



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