February 16, 2009

Mustain could lead high-powered offense

After another successful season, the USC football team is set for a little bit of transition.

While the USC defense will have a very new look with plenty of new faces in expanded roles, the Trojan offense is ready to step into the light.

But there's a question that needs to be answered. Who will be the driving force leading the Trojans' offense?

With Mark Sanchez declaring for the NFL Draft, USC has an open spot at quarterback, and Mitch Mustain said he wants the job.

"I think with the fact that we've lost so many guys on defense and we're keeping so many on offense, I'd like to think we will be an offensive football team," Mustain said. "I hope our defense doesn't lose much and we gain a lot.

"We have so many older guys on the line now and older guys at receiver. It's not been like that for a while. I think we'll be fine - the quarterbacks just have to step in and step up."

The process has already begun at USC. Friday morning, the entire team met for a conditioning workout, and after, Mustain, Aaron Corp, Garrett Green and Matt Barkley led the Trojan offense against the defense in seven-on-seven and one-on-one drills.

"Things went pretty well. It's nice to get this competition," Mustain said. "We don't really get a chance to have everyone out here that often. It's the first time we've gotten to do this, our first team workout."

Mustain said he's feeling good, with his arm and the rest of the quarterbacks rested after a busy season of reps under center.

"Our last month was huge. Those couple weeks off were really big for our arms," he said. "We're just now starting to get it back. With plenty of time before spring ball, we'll be good."

During 2008, Mustain, Corp and Green all jockeyed for position behind Sanchez, with Corp ending the year as the back up.

Mustain said his mindset hasn't shifted even though the vacancy at starting quarterback.

Even with a new offensive coordinator (John Morton), a new quarterbacks coach (Jeremy Bates) and some new blood at the position (Barkley), things haven't shifted too drastically.

"It's what it's been like every other year, but I guess we've kind of switched roles. Aaron and I, we're the experienced ones," Mustain said. "We're doing the same things we always have been, trying to get to top speed."

And as of right now, the coaches haven't told anyone who's the leading candidate to replace Sanchez.

"It's open right now," Mustain said. "Me, Corp and Garrett have all been here. Matt's ready to step on in, and he's got a nice advantage with us changing some things. I think we're all starting at zero - at least I hope so."

Mustain said Barkley has a tough hill to climb in order to contribute right away.

"It's tough, but days like today are really good for him," Mustain said. "He'll have a nice semester jump on it. That's going to help him a lot. He's already been out here with us for almost two months, working. He's got a nice head start."

Despite their tenure on campus, all the quarterbacks will be starting from square one with Bates. Mustain said he and Bates have talked plenty, but the two haven't spent a lot of time discussing specifics.

"We haven't gotten into it much. Obviously, he's reviewing our film," Mustain said. "We'll get that stuff worked out during spring ball, starting new with it.

"I think he's going to be good. He brings a lot from his time in Denver. I know he's going to help us."

Mustain said he's excited to see what changes Bates incorporates into USC's offense, helping the unit become even more explosive as it takes over the Trojans' identity.

"We're going to be changing some stuff up. It'll be almost the same. We'll change very little, but it'll be all the same concepts. It's nothing huge, just small concepts here or there. A lot of what they're dreaming up right now is still young and new.

"I think we'll all be all right.

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