For first time in school history, a true freshman will start at quarterback for USC on Opening Day. Matt Barkley will do the honors against San Jose State on September 5.
The move is somewhat surprising, considering that experience and consistency at QB have been real hallmarks of the position under Pete Carroll. But Barkley has continued to impress the USC coaching staff since forgoing his second semester of high school to start spring practices for the Trojans. Barkley has a fantastic arm, throws beautiful passes, and he has the ability to create big plays.
Barkley had the most upside of the three QBs, and that helped him win the job. But he also won it because Aaron Corp is clearly not 100% since suffering a cracked fibula in practice earlier this month. Corp throws the ball well, but his real asset is his speed and scrambling ability. With the injured leg, Corp simply can't be effective, so starting him opening day apparently was out of the question. Unfortunaltey for Corp, the game experience that Barkley will get early in the season is invaluable, and it will be interesting to see if Corp winds up hoping he's the next Matt Cassel.
I still wonder why Mitch Mustain never seemed to have a chance at the job during training camp. He's the only QB with any significant collegiate experience, and he went 8-0 as a starter in the SEC for Arkansas. Mustain is now in his third year in the Trojan system, and should know it well by now. But apparently the coaching staff felt that Mustain never stepped up and earned the starting job when given the opportunity, and he opened training camp as clearly the No. 3 QB. Still, you wonder if we've seen the last of Mustain, or if Barkley struggles, then perhaps the coaching staff will want someone reliable at that spot.
Many USC fans are worried that Barkley might struggle. Any true freshman is going to have growing pains, even highly touted ones like Matt Barkley. With USC entering the season with legitimate national championship hopes, the real question at what cost will Barkley's learning experiences come? He's looked great in training camp at times, but he's also tried to do too much and thrown passes that have been intercepted by the Trojans highly touted defensive backs. What happens when Barkley suits up in Week 2 against Ohio State in front over 100,000+ at the Horse Shoe in Columbus? What about other tough road starts this season at Cal, at Oregon, and at Arizona State? Notre Dame is also improved this year, and USC will play them on the road too.
Pete Carroll is the best coach in college football in my opinion, and Trojan fans have to trust his judgment on this decision. I'm sure Barkley will not be asked to do too much, like the way Matt Leinart slowly came along in his first season as a starter (guiding USC to a split national title at that). But I can also understand any concern that Trojan fans might have about an 18-year old taking the reigns of one of college football's premier teams.
I discussed this subject -- as well as several other sports topics -- on The Filter with Fred Roggin this evening. Check it out.