Wednesday Practice: Mustain Moving Up?

While Matt Barkley has solidified himself as the Trojans leading man under center, the competition for the No. 2 spot appears to be heating up. Look inside for all the news, notes and quotes from Wednesday's practice.

While Matt Barkley has solidified himself as the Trojans leading man under center, the competition for the No. 2 spot appears to be heating up.

Third-string quarterback Mitch Mustain is enjoying a very good week of practice and has seen an increase in his number of snaps.

"He's getting a lot of reps out here," Carroll said. "We see him throwing the ball really well. This is the best he's thrown the ball since camp.

"For whatever reason, he's just looked the best he's looked. This isn't unfamiliar territory. We've seen Mitch elevate at times. He's done that in the last two weeks, particularly this week. Jeremy's noticed it. He's certainly giving him more turns. He's earned it."

The coaches have taken notice of Mustain's improved play over the past two weeks and have been particularly pleased with his consistency.

"Mitch has been inconsistent with his arm strength at times. He's not like that right now. He's on it. It's kind of unusual," Carroll said. "You can definitely see that there's more velocity, he's feeling more confident and he's performing better out here."

Much like last season when both players spent time as the No.2 quarterback, Corp and Mustain look like they are in for another year of competing for the backup spot.

"Aaron's battling too. Everybody's working at it. It's a good, competitive setting for our guys," Carroll said. "We'll see what that means at game time. ... Mitch can play. Mitch is ready to play. And I know Aaron wants to play too. That's a good thing. We're getting both of those guys as ready as we can."

Barkley Brings his Fastball

USC freshman Matt Barkley showed in Columbus, Ohio that he was a good closer, and after injuring his shoulder Barkley's now starting to get his fastball back.

"He's getting better every day. I thought today he was throwing as hard as he has thrown in probably two weeks," quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates said. "The training staff is doing an excellent job with him.

"It's good to see him come out and practice. In the game he looked like he was throwing the fastball but he hasn't really shown it in practice until today."

The USC quarterback still isn't 100 percent but he looked comfortable throwing the ball with good velocity during Wednesday's practice.

"From yesterday to today is a big jump for him. It's really good. It's great to see him having fun throwing the ball around for the first time in a while," Carroll said. "He's got some more to come back from, but he looked good."

Both Carroll and Bates agreed that today was the best Barkley has looked since injuring his shoulder.

"Without question, it was the best day for his arm motion," Carroll said. "You could see early on that he was really freely throwing the football."

Hot Reads

- Marc Tyler, Marshall Jones, Brian Baucham, Ronald Johnson, Armond Armstead and Jordan Campbell were among the players that didn't participate in Wednesday's practice.

- After missing Tuesday practice with a bruised knee, defensive end Nick Perry made a surprising return to the practice field today.

"It was a great return. He just couldn't even move yesterday. That's a good sign. It's not a knee injury; it's a bruised knee," Carroll said. "We just have to hope he doesn't get banged on here."

Perry has emerged as a key contributor this season and currently leads the Pac-10 with 6 quarterback sacks.

"I'm sure he's going to play in the game," Carroll said.

- Shane Horton continues to take the first-team reps at weakside linebacker this week. While Luthur Brown and Malcolm Smith are both limited they will travel and are expected to be game time decisions.

"We'll have to go all the way up to game time with those guys," Carroll said. "They're both going to travel. Luthur is further along, but he still has some back soreness, but he's going to be able to play if there are no setbacks."

- While the Trojans are coming off a performance in which they had 13 penalties this week they face the least penalized team in the Pac-10.

"They're the lowest penalized team in the conference at this point in the season. They're just a really hard team to beat in that regard because they don't give you anything," Carroll said. "It makes us have to play a very strict, disciplined game to stay with them. We're working really hard to make sure we get that done."

- After recording 5 tackles and 4 deflections last year in an impressive performance against Cal, safety Taylor Mays said he expects to be challenged again on Saturday.

"They know they can take shots against us," Mays said. "They're not intimidated by us. They like to take shots."

- Freshman cornerback Byron Moore, who could see playing time this week, had an interception and pass deflection.

Matt Barkley looked comfortable throwing the ball on Wednesday. (Jaime Rodriguez Photo)

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