August 27, 2009
So much for paying your dues: As of a few minutes ago, Matt Barkley is officially slated to become the first true freshman quarterback to start a USC opener:
"It's clear to us as a staff that Matt Barkley is ready to be the starting quarterback at USC," Carroll said. "He has exceeded all our expectations. He has all the physical ability, he has the mentality and temperament to handle the position, his personality is very well received by all the players and he's extremely talented.
"He's the starting quarterback at USC -- it's not a one-game deal," Carroll said.
This was a moderately predictable headline after Barkley's allegedly eye-opening performance in the spring; two weeks ago, when Aaron Corp's knee injury opened the door for Barkley to assert himself with the first team, his chances seemed to rise to about 50-50. But today, after two weeks of mostly mediocre practice reports, at least one dreadful scrimmage and a growing concern over his mounting interception total, on a day when even reporters closest to the program reported all signs point to a healthy Corp reassuming the reins by the end of the week, it’s fairly stunning. No: Given the widespread assumptions after Barkley tanked his first scrimmage since Corp’s injury, it’s very stunning.
Not that any quarterback under Pete Carroll has failed to set the Pac-10 on fire, but they’ve all put in their dues: Carson Palmer struggled through his junior year before exploding as a senior, and even as first-rate, massively hyped recruits, Matt Leinart, John David Booty and Mark Sanchez all sat for at least two years -- in the cases of Booty and Sanchez, three years -- biding their time. Corp, a drooled-over prospect in his own right, was next in line, and was consistently protrayed as the steady, headstrong, conservative presence who would eventually win out over the more talented but erratic young gun. Carroll has always emphasized turnovers, and Corp has by all accounts been far stingier with the ball than Barkley. Even when I watched Barkley’s high school team play an ESPN2 game last fall, he tossed multiple interceptions.
But: The kid can obviously sling it, and will give the Trojans a chance for more big plays downfield than Corp. He already has NFL size, a spring practice under his belt and an entire year of prepping between his commitment to SC and his first day on campus. They don't come more hyped than Barkley, even when their last name is "Clausen," and the competition at USC is its own quality control. He seized the highest profile job in college sports like it was a birthright.
And, yeah, the line on the Trojans' Sept. 12 visit to Ohio State just dropped by half.