The team is back at it today after having the day off Sunday and Monday. They will have a simulated game week concluding with a mock game day on Saturday.
Today we find out just how far Aaron Corp has progressed since his injury and if he will be able to start the first game but there is a lot more at stake than just who starts the season the question will be who will take ownership of the position in the years to come.
After a winter of anticipation, a spring of competition and a summer training camp marked by injury and developing intrigue, USC's quarterback race comes down to the next five days.
And more could be at stake than who will start against San Jose State in the Sept. 5 opener at the Coliseum: ownership of the position for the next three years.
Regardless of which quarterback Coach Pete Carroll taps, sophomore Aaron Corp or freshman Matt Barkley (we'll get to Mitch Mustain later, even if the Trojans coaches won't), the winner will be positioned to keep college football's most glamorous job until he heads to the NFL.
That's the way it happens at USC under Carroll.
I am really not that worried about it.
Like many, I believe Aaron Corp will be the starter this season. He has two years in the system and that goes a long way to running Pete Carroll's offense. The time that Barkley had with the first team will be an invaluable experience as he moves forward at USC. That is certainly not to say that he won't see some action this season but I think the job is Corp's to lose. There is still the possibility of Barkley red shirting but I think that is pretty unlikely at this point.
Barkley wants the starting job but I don't think he is there yet even though Pete Carroll and Jeremy Bates would be comfortable starting Barkley for the opener against San Jose St. Barkley has struggled at times but he has also made some significant progress but the difference here is that Barkley is one of the more prepared and complete QB's that have ever come into D-1 and his graduating early so that he could participate in spring ball showed a lot people just how good he is.
It is going to be interesting as the picture will become more clear as the week moves on...
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One of the weapons that Corp or Barkley will look to the most is WR Damian Williams.
WIlliams will be back at it this week after sitting out a few days with a bruised quad. I don't see that as a big deal as Williams has more than showed his comfort and knowledge of the system but having back on the field will be a big boost of confidence for whichever QB is under center.
When former quarterback Mark Sanchez left USC for the NFL last January, the Trojans' top receiver almost followed.
"He was one of my best friends," Williams said recently. "Not only that, the quarterback is leaving. You didn't quite know who was going to be the next guy. I can't lie and say I didn't think about it."
The Trojans are happy that Williams came back.
The fourth-year junior was USC's most dependable receiver last season, catching a team-high 58 passes for 869 yards and nine touchdowns.
Williams said before the Rose Bowl game against Penn State that he had no intention of leaving for the NFL.
Then came Sanchez's dynamic New Year's Day performance against the Nittany Lions. The junior passed for four touchdowns and ran for another, setting in motion a process that culminated with his decision to pass up his final season of eligibility.
There is no disputing how important Williams was to the success of the offense last season. He was pretty much instrumental in every win for USC last season. He and Sanchez were "ON" last year it was scary. I watch a replay of the Rose Bowl and the one play where Sanchez put it up where it was a full second before Williams made the turn and the ball was right there...Williams ended up gaining another 20 or so yards. This year Williams will be the old man on the receiving corps and it will be up to him to guide the younger receivers to build the same sort of simpatico with whomever is named the starting QB.
More importantly Williams has shown us a high level of maturity. He knows he wasn't ready for the next level and he wanted to graduate. This is the same sort of maturity that we have seen in a number of USC players over the years. Football is important but it is only part of the picture.
He will have a huge impact on the offense this year no question.
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On the defensive side of the ball the one big question is who would replace the injured Armond Armstead at DE? SC has some depth here but that depth is a bit inexperienced. Right now it looks like Pete Carroll will looking for Malik Jackson to start...
There's an intense competition to find a replacement for USC defensive end Armond Armstead, but it will not include highly touted freshman Devon Kennard.
Sophomores Malik Jackson, Wes Horton and Nick Perry, along with junior Derek Simmons, will try to claim the job after Armstead broke his foot while Kennard will back up the opposite defensive end, Everson Griffen.
Kennard, considered one of the nation's top 25 prep players last year, did manage three tackles, including two for losses, and a sack during Saturday's scrimmage, but coach Pete Carroll is intrigued by the idea of Jackson replacing Armstead.
"I want a good look at him the next two weeks," Carroll said. "He was behind Everson and was very active and should do fine there."
Kennard will be a monster but I think he needs a full season under his belt and in the weight room before he is ready to compete for a stating job. Kennard will definitely see some time here and there backing up Griffen but the year he lost because of his ACL injury probably set him back a bit in his physical conditioning but I have no doubt that he will pick it up.
While Jackson seems to the front runner for now it would not surprise me if Carroll looks at the others as interchangeable. All have made some plays in the past and all will see some action especially if SC gets out to a big lead against SJSU. You gotta like where SC is headed on defense.
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The other unit that we actually have heard very little about that had the biggest amount of turnover is the linebackers. Many feel that even though the production may drop off a bit from last season the talent definitely won't as this years group has more speed that last years group. They question will be making the plays.
USC's linebackers were considered a question mark the minute Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing used up their eligibility, but Maualuga's replacement, Chris Galippo, is not shy expressing his feelings about the new group.
"I think the linebackers are getting a reputation, and people who underestimate us will get smacked in the mouth," Galippo said.
Galippo, weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith and strongside linebacker Michael Morgan have answered most questions for USC coach Pete Carroll, especially in scrimmages, in which the defense tends to dominate the offense.
I love Galippo's confidence!
They have some big shoes to fill, but with how the defense runs on this team I am looking for big things from the linebackers this season. They will be the stop gap behind a pretty new defensive line and their speed will be key.
I feel pretty good about this group...
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Here some links...
Oldtimer's Take: Scrimmage Edition
Oldtimer offers a solid write up...