April 6, 2009

Answers coming to surface in QB race

The quarterback battle has already changed drastically over the first week of spring practices.

The four-man battle appeared to drop to three before Garrett Green took reps on Sunday. Matt Barkley, Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp all have had better days than their competition.

Still, five practices into the spring, some truths are beginning to emerge.

Pete Carroll wants someone to manage the game.

Remember the Trojan offense at the beginning of 2008, the one that moved the ball down the field in big chunks and scored points in bunches? Well, that was then.

With an offense that's returning nine starters and a myriad of contributors, Carroll knows there are plenty of talent and plenty of ways to score points.

It wouldn't make sense to ask the next quarterback to take a lot of risks down the field. It will make sense to get the ball to Damian Williams, Stafon Johnson and Ronald Johnson in space with low-risk throws.

Instead of asking the quarterback to make all the plays, Carroll wants the quarterback to facilitate big plays.

Corp's mobility makes him special

Carroll has always valued players who offer specific skills that differentiate themselves, and Corp is one of those guys.

He's always a threat to pick up a first down with his feet, making him more difficult to gameplan for than other quarterbacks. He's kept numerous drives alive this spring by taking off and running.

Corp's also been relatively mistake free, and it's no coincidence. Say USC needs 8 yards for a first down. Corp is less likely to force a ball because he can take off for the first down on his own.

Barkley's got the best arm - by far.

The true freshman unleashes at least one pass per practice that no other current Trojan quarterback can make. His arm strength is maybe his biggest asset, and the main reason he's such a viable option as a starter.

However, Barkley hasn't totally embraced a more conservative decision-making process, something he'll need if he's given control of the USC offense.

It's probably not his year, but if Barkley becomes more comfortable making the safe, smart decision, his ability to go down the field will add a very dangerous facet to the Trojan offense.

Mustain's mustache isn't the only thing growing.

Mustain's no stranger to quarterback competitions, and he's seemed very comfortable battling for the starting spot.

In addition to a pencil-thin mustache, Mustain's also feeling more comfortable in the USC offense. He's not made every throw, but he has looked more like a starting quarterback.

Jeremy Bates is still settling in.

In its first scrimmage, Bates called the plays, and he didn't unleash anything too wild. Halfway through their installation, the Trojans haven't totally unleashed anything too wild yet.

They're have been some nice gains through the passing game, but the Trojans have been more likely to make the conservative decisions than the aggressive one during competition periods.

Maybe at this point, it's just easier to be conservative in an effort to minimize mistakes. Or, maybe Bates has hands tied.

By the end of the spring, we should have a better idea of what kind of playcaller Bates is.

Green knows the offense better than any of the other quarterbacks.

Green spent four practices doing nothing, essentially, as far as the quarterback race is concerned. Without missing a beat Sunday, he throws the only two touchdown passes in just four passing attempts.

Now he's certainly not the most talented of the four quarterbacks, but Green's understanding of the USC offense and system is invaluable. He knows it from the defense's perspective and from the receivers' perspective.

He probably won't win the job, but he's convinced anyone who doubted him that he could be the quarterback at USC.

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