April 22, 2009

Corp on top. Barkley close behind

All along, USC head coach Pete Carroll and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates had a plan to name the Trojans' next starting quarterback.

Tuesday, the plan, which included comparable time for the three main competitors, a wide array of situations and plays and a start for each in USC's scrimmages, produced a winner.

Sophomore Aaron Corp held off Matt Barkley and a fading Mitch Mustain for the starting spot in the Trojan Huddle on Saturday. Corp will also be the No. 1 quarterback all summer and at the top heading into fall.

"You have to have a starter for the spring game. We'll have a first group, and Aaron's going to be with them. It's his job to lose," Bates said. "When we enter fall camp, he'll be number one. I told him not to look back. It's for Matt and Mitch to catch him."

Barkley seems to be close, and Carroll said he expects Barkley to compete for the starting job once the team opens in August.

Carroll said Barkley couldn't win the job now because he doesn't have a full grasp on the offense in the same way that Corp and Mustain do.

"One of the factors in that decision is we've not enabled him with all of the stuff in the system in terms of the communication. We have to help him with the play calls, and Coach Bates is there with him in the huddle all the time. He's not involved with all the signaling and communications aspects," Carroll said. "He couldn't control a game right now. That's a big aspect that's one of the easier aspects to take care of. In the offseason and through the summer, he'll do his studying to prepare for that so he can come back and compete for the starting spot."

Carroll and Bates both said they want Corp to embrace the starting role and not look back. Still, he knows Barkley's not far behind.

"I'm excited," he said. "It's a great opportunity, but again, I can't get complacent. Matt's right there. I just have to keep working hard."

Carroll said he wants to get the quarterbacks on a level playing field, knowledge wise, a few weeks into fall camp, and that's when he'll make his final decision.

"I think it's going to take us a couple weeks into camp before we can even think about making an assessment," Carroll said. "It'll take a couple of weeks to see what all three guys are doing and where they're at when we come back.

"Things can change."

Carroll has taken a similar stance on quarterback battles in the past, naming a starter in the spring and saying the competition would remain open in the fall. Each time, the player he named in the spring started the bulk of the next season.

Still, this time, Carroll's words carry more weight.

"This competition feels a little bit different than the other ones. The variables about Matt's emergence here makes it a little bit different," Carroll said. "He's way ahead of schedule. He's way above the level of what other guys have done in this time as a freshman.

"Our expectations are he might continue that."

Barkley said he's operating under the assumption that he'll get another crack to win the starting nod come August.

"I'm excited that I get a chance in this thing and that they're considering me. It's going to be a battle like it has been…" he said. "My best is yet to come. I'm not satisfied yet with myself until that number one spot is mine."

Bates said he thinks Barkley will be a factor in the quarterback battle when it picks back up.

"Barkley's right there. He could be playing against San Jose State. He's had a heck of a spring. He's been able to handle everything we've thrown at him as far as all the football," Bates said. "It's been very impressive for an 18-year old who should still be in high school to handle all of that. For him to take a snap - and he's not just taking snaps, he's producing.

"We're not talking about redshirting him; we're talking about playing him."

Trailing both Corp and Barkley, Mustain has the most ground to make up.

Bates said he thought all three quarterbacks were given opportunities, and Mustain's drives just stalled at the wrong times.

"We're not trying to keep anything from these guys. We don't want to be shady," Bates said. "We want to be open and honest with these guys. We want them to know they've all been given a fair shot, and we've been fair with them."

After being asked whether he felt he got a fair chance to win the starting spot, Mustain said he met with Bates and had a private conversation.

"That's something me and him talked about, and I'll keep that with us," Mustain said. "I guess it depends on how you interpret drives or reps or whatever. That's their interpretation. The point is we've just got to keep battling"

While Corp's not guaranteed to be starting against San Jose State come Sept. 5, he is the guy Carroll and Bates will look to as a leader for the USC offense through the offseason.

"We went about this with the thought we were playing a game this weekend, and we had to make a choice of who would go out with the first group, which really tells us who is ahead at this time," Carroll said. "And, Aaron Corp is that guy. He's had a great spring, and he's done everything he's can to maximize this opportunity at this point. He understands the offense. He's moved around well with it.

"He's made his mistakes, but he's really been able to avoid the costly mistakes. That's what you like to see in your starting quarterback."

Tuesday's throws

Seven-on-seven drills

Corp
- Complete to Joe McKnight, checkdown.
- Complete to Stanley Havili.
- Complete to Damian Williams.
- Complete to Cooper Stephenson, short touchdown.
- Incomplete to Anthony McCoy.

Barkley
- Complete to Stave Gatena, nice throw in traffic.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson.
- Complete to McCoy.
- Complete to Brice Butler.
- Complete to Williams, touchdown.

Mustain
- Complete to David Ausberry.
- Incomplete deep to McCoy.
- Complete to Stephenson.
- Complete to Butler.
- Complete to Williams, touchdown.

Corp
- Incomplete to Ronald Johnson.
- Complete to Butler, touchdown, nice throw and great route.
- Complete to Scott Stephens.

Barkley
- Complete to Ausberry on fade for a touchdown; Ausberry too strong for Brian Baucham.

Mustain
- Complete to McCoy, touchdown; McCoy makes nice catch after bobbling the pass.

11-on-11 drills

Corp

- Sacked by T.J. Bryant.
- Complete to Butler, big gain.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson; thrown high, great catch.
- Complete to Havili.

Barkley
- Fumbled snap, Chris Galippo recovers.
- Complete to Brandon Carswell.
- Incomplete to Ronald Johnson.
- Complete to Butler.

Mustain
- Sacked by Omari Crittenden.
- Complete to Havili.

Corp
- Handoff to Marc Tyler, big gain.
- Incomplete to C.J. Gable.
- Handoff to Curtis McNeal.
- Incomplete to Travon Patterson deep, deflected by Taylor Mays.
- Incomplete, thrown away.

Barkley
- Handoff to Tyler.
- Sacked by Nick Perry.
- Handoff to McNeal.

Mustain
- Handoff to Tyler.
- Complete to Cooper Stephenson.
- Handoff to Havili, touchdown run.

Corp
- Incomplete to Butler, dropped.
- Complete to McNeal.
- Incomplete to Patterson, dropped.
- Sacked by Averell Spicer.
- Complete to Havili deep, perfectly thrown.

Barkley
- Incomplete to Williams.
- Incomplete to McCoy deep, dropped.
- Handoff to Tyler, big gain.
- Complete to McNeal.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson.

Corp
- Handoff to Williams, end around.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson, touchdown, caught after being deflected by Baucham.

Barkley
- Complete to Tyler.
- Incomplete, thrown away.
- Handoff to Tyler.
- Incomplete to Jordan Cameron.
- Handoff to McNeal.
- Incomplete to Cameron.

Extra Points

• Carroll said he couldn't start Matt Barkley right now if he wanted to.

"We can't signal a game with him. We can't play with him. If we were playing today, he can't start. He's not ready," Carroll said. "He'd be reading things off his wristbands, and that's not the way we want to send him into his first game. We have a lot of ground to make up, but it's very doable."

• Mustain said he was disappointed in the decision, and that's just fine with Carroll.

"I never want a guy to be slapping backs after he finds out he's not the guy," Carroll said.

Mustain said he was not considering transferring because he's too close to earning his degree.

• A bunch of players returned to Tuesday's practice. Charles Brown and Butch Lewis both participated, and running backs C.J. Gable and Allen Bradford also participated.

Bradford ran some routes out of the backfield, but he didn't get any passes thrown his way.

Everson Griffen missed practice due to illness.

• Corp said he already feels a little different since being named the starter Tuesday afternoon.

"There's more confidence, definitely," Corp said. "It's a dream come true basically."

• Bates said Corp and Barkley are very close, but some factors separated the two quarterbacks.

"Aaron's really managed the game. He's moved the team and had no interceptions. He's really smart with the ball. Last scrimmage, he was outstanding," Bates said. "He really showed some throws and threw the ball deep a couple of times. At the end of the day, he moved the ball down the field and didn't turn the ball over. That's the biggest separation right now."



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