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July 21, 2009
Pre-camp Preview: Quarterbacks
When beginning to look at what lies ahead for the 2009 USC football season, starting anywhere other than quarterback seems just plain nutty.
For the second-straight year, USC will be christening a new No. 1 quarterback, but for Pete Carroll and his team, things will be even more uncertain this fall than last.
Unlike last year, USC doesn't have a quarterback on the roster that has played meaningful reps in a Trojan uniform.
When the Trojans say, "hut, hut, hike," for the first time this year, there will be a brand new face under center.
Mark Sanchez won the job in the spring, and over the summer, he firmly established himself as the face of the offense. Sanchez overcame a freak knee injury during fall camp to start for the Trojans' in the opener at Virginia.
He threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns in USC's rout, setting the tone for a very successful year. Sanchez finished the season leading USC to another Rose Bowl win with a MVP performance against Penn State.
Sanchez would eventually be the second quarterback selected in the NFL Draft, going to the New York Jets
Aaron Corp began the season as the No. 2 quarterback, eventually losing that spot to Mitch Mustain. Corp would again be the back up by the end of the season, but he got less work during the year.
Mustain completed 11-of-16 passes with a touchdown and an interception. Corp was just two-for-four.
In maybe a mild surprise, Corp downed Mustain during the spring, but the Arkansas transfer wasn't hottest on Corp's heels.
True freshman Matt Barkley enrolled early, and he quickly made a push for playing time.
And while Corp heads into the season as the No. 1, Barkley has his eyes set on being the Trojans' starting quarterback today - not tomorrow.
"I still think it's on. That's my goal. It's the one thing I'm striving for this fall," Barkley said. "It would be a dream come true to win this job. I'm just going to keep on competing. The coaches know it's not over, and Aaron knows that too. I'm just going to keep working hard."
Corp knows the competition is still on, and he expects Barkley and Mustain to push him this fall.
"That's the mindset you have to have, really. Matt needs to have it too. It's the only way we can get better," Corp said. "Even last year with Mark (Sanchez), he was the guy. In my mind, I was still competing for a spot even though realistically, it probably wasn't going to happen."
Mustain probably has the most ground to make up as he's third on the depth chart, but the veteran thinks he can start to get back in the race by simply having fun.
"I'm coming in the underdog, I guess," Mustain said. "It's a pretty easy position for me. I can just kind of play. It makes it a lot easier. I'm not looking behind me. I get to fling it around and have fun with it."
Jack-of-all trades Garrett Green and walk-on John Manoogian add depth to the position.
What will be
First-year quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates and Carroll want a quarterback who can protect the football more than anything else, and this spring, that was Corp.
For there to be a change in the depth chart prior to USC's opener against San Jose State, Corp will have to cough up the ball during fall camp. If he opens the door, expect Matt Barkley to make a serious push.
Barkley could not have won the starting job at the end of spring because he wasn't fully versed in the offense's signals, Carroll said. That's no longer the case.
The ultra-freshman learned the hand signals early this summer, and he's primed to step into the spotlight if Corp falters.
Mustain has made it clear that he has no intentions of transferring, but for Mustain to play, he's got to catch two horses with pretty strong gallops. He'll also have to rebound from some academic issues that may have cost him points with the coaches this summer.
The fact remains that Mustain's the team's most experienced quarterback, starting eight games at Arkansas, but as of now, it appears that experience won't guarantee him playing time.
Realistically, the job is Corp's to lose. He's unique because of his mobility, and this summer, he's added zip to his throws. Like Sanchez before him. Corp's become a leader.