April 15, 2009

Carroll needs to consider all factors at QB

Over the course of the last three practices, things in the USC quarterback competition have certainly become more interesting.

Matt Barkley's breathed life into the competition, putting together a string of days where he's made some big time throws and limited mistakes.

Coinciding with Barkley's ascent has been the descent of Mitch Mustain.

Mustain's seen his reps continue to dwindle, and he's yet to lead USC on a good-looking scoring drive all spring.

So assuming that the quarterback competition is now a two-man race between Barkley and Aaron Corp, other factors into the decision need to be examined.

Because the decision ultimately will be Pete Carroll's, the impact on recruiting needs to be looked at. Nearly every decision Carroll makes is calculated with recruiting in mind, and the decision to choose a starting quarterback probably won't be any different.

If Barkley wins the starting nod, it opens the door for some negative recruiting, pointing to Corp - a highly-touted player out of high school - being beaten out by someone three years younger. Other coaches could tell recruits that playing time could never come at USC because the Trojans are willing to play younger players over veterans.

Still, the Trojans can use Barkley as a starter to their recruiting advantage. If Barkley wins the job, Carroll will now have his poster boy for his competition-first program. With Barkley at the helm, Carroll will have proof whenever he visits a top recruit and could tell that recruit he'd have a legit shot at beating out a veteran already near the top of the depth chart.

Another factor to consider is experience. Obviously Corp has more, but because of a new positional coach, Jeremy Bates, it would seem all the quarterbacks would be starting at the same point.

And that could be to Barkley's advantage. Where very few true freshman quarterbacks have immediate success at the collegiate level, there is some evidence to show rookie NFL quarterbacks can have success if they take over with an experienced offense.

Carroll and Bates also need to weigh the differences between Corp and Barkley.

Barkley has had the much flashier spring, completing deep balls and throwing more touchdowns. Still, Corp hasn't thrown a single interception.

If the staff truly values ball control more than anything else, which it says it does, than Corp may have a leg up.

However, there's value in Barkley's ability to make the difficult throw. If USC were in a position where it needed to orchestrate a long drive in a short amount of time, Barkley's rocket arm would be a major asset.

Mustain, not Barkley, is now the wild card in the race. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that Mustain begins playing better over the final spring practices.

The timetable for this decision hasn't shifted, really. USC will almost certainly name a starter by the end of spring practices in order to have a leader going into players' only workouts.

Come fall, though, and the competition could be picked up right where it leaves off after the Trojan Huddle, and the longer it goes on, the more time the staff has to talk itself into handing the keys to the offense over to a freshman.

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