Thursday, August 27, 2009

USC goes with the young gun

Pete Carroll apparently got enough of a look at Aaron Corp in practice on Wednesday, because today he announced that freshman Matt Barkley will be USC's starting quarterback.
"He has exceeded all our expectations," Carroll said in a statement. "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. At this point, he's ready to be the guy for us."
Barkley might have been the top-rated high school QB in the country, but Carroll is entering unprecedented territory here. Since taking over at USC in 2001, his quarterbacks have been:
  • Carson Palmer (junior)
  • Carson Palmer (senior)
  • Matt Leinart (redshirt sophomore)
  • Matt Leinart (redshirt junior)
  • Matt Leinart (redshirt senior)
  • John David Booty (junior)
  • John David Booty (senior)
  • Mark Sanchez (redshirt junior)
Leinart had the least experience of any of Carroll's starters, and he was already in his third year in the system when he took over. In fact, no true freshman has ever started for USC, which is pretty remarkable. The obvious reason is that true freshmen usually don't perform very well, but that sort of clashes with USC's recent QB production, which has been extremely good and eerily similar regardless of who has been under center. In other words, something's gotta give.

While Barkley's inexperience might not be enough to knock USC from the ranks of the elite this year, it does open the door just a tad farther for Oregon or Cal to make a run at a Pac-10 title. It's hard to completely dismiss the less-than-glowing practice reports on Barkley and his 5-for-18 performance in the Trojans' scrimmage last week.

Everyone keeps saying, "USC loses a ton every year and they're still just as good the next year," and that's obviously true since they've finished in the top four of the final AP poll every year since 2002. But they've always had one dominant unit -- either the offense or the defense has been so good that any deficiencies were irrelevant -- and I'm not sure that'll be the case this year. The running game -- with Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable and a dominating offensive line -- should be very good, but there's just no way the defense doesn't suffer a drop-off. And taking a true freshman QB on the road to Columbus, Berkeley, South Bend (OK, it probably doesn't matter who plays QB in that one) and Autzen Stadium won't make things any easier.

Here's the deal: If USC wins the Pac-10 and finishes in the top five again this year, we can all acknowledge that there is no end in sight to the Trojans' dominance. They won't face a more challenging "reloading" project than they will this year. But all good things must come to an end (or at least a temporary delay), and circumstances are conspiring to make it more and more likely that this is the year someone finally rises up and dethrones USC in the Pac-10.

Oh, and one last thing: When USC is dismantling Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, try to forget that I wrote this.

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