Friday, August 28, 2009
USC Head Coach Pete Carroll made a surprise move yesterday when he announced that true freshman Matt Barkley would open the season as the starting quarterback. This is shocking for multiple reasons, the least of which might be that a true freshman has never opened the season as a starter for the Trojans. What is also interesting about this move is that a year ago everyone assumed that Barkley would be redshirted in 2009, since USC starting quarterback Mark Sanchez had one more year of eligibility. That all changed when Sanchez left early and went to the NFL. Now the 4th ranked Trojans, whose measure of success is measured in Championships, will rely on a 19 year old to lead them back to the promised land.
Barkely wasn't handed the job when Sanchez left, he had to beat out two other quarterbacks who both saw time last season. Redshirted Junior Mitch Mustain was Sanchez's primary backup in 2008 and saw time in six games. Redshirted Sophomore Aaron Corp entered the spring as the heir apparent to Sanchez, but missed time this summer with a knee injury that allowed Barkley to vault ahead to the top spot. While Barkley may be the top freshman quarterback recruit according to ESPN, he has to battle with two former top prospects. Both Corp and Mustain were 5-star recruits when they entered college, and Mustain was also considered the top prospect in nation.
I actually feel a little bad for Mustain since this is the 2nd time a team has buried him on the depth chart. In 2006 the Springdale High School Arkansas product chose his home state Razorbacks. He started 8 games that season and threw for 894 yards with 10 touchdowns, before being replaced late in the season by Sophomore Casey Dick. Mustain transferred after the season to USC, due to the benching and the fact that the Razorbacks stuck with a run-oriented offense (Mustain's H.S. coach was the offensive coordinator, but left due to disagreements with head coach Houston Nutt). Mustain had to sit out 2007 and be redshirted, but seemed likely to take over for Sanchez when he left. Now after four years of college, Mustain with two years of eligibility left, Mustain is passed over again, this time by a freshman.
Barkley won't have to wait long to prove that he is worthy of the number one status. USC goes to Columbus for a Top 10 match-up with the Buckeyes on Sept. 12th. If Barkley beats Ohio State then Pete Carroll will look like a genius and the Trojans will look unstoppable. If Barkley struggles, Carroll could be second guessed since that loss could knock USC out of the National Championship picture. If he needs to make a change Carroll has some good options, but right now the most prestigious open QB job in the nation goes to the new kid on the block.