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Football News and Notes...Corp looks steady, O'Dowd looks to return by the opener

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The conventional wisdom is that Pete Carroll is going to name Aaron Corp the starter for the September 5th opener against San Jose St.

By not revealing his quarterback decision, USC coach Pete Carroll is telling us everything.

He is waiting to see how Aaron Corp’s leg holds up this week because he wants Corp to be the Trojans’ starter this season.

If he believes freshman Matt Barkley is the right choice — the guy who, in the coaching parlance, "gives the team the best chance to win" — Carroll would have made the call already.

Instead, he waits.

As he should.

Of course Pete Carroll holding back on a formal announcement is to see if Corp is healed enough to play at the level that Pete Carroll wants see.

So, the big question everyone wants to know is can Aaron Corp run? Can he be as mobile as we had seen before his injury?

Corp has looked steady since he returned to practice on Tuesday but he hasn't had to really scramble out of the pocket and that is a pretty important test in the eyes of Pete Carroll...

Corp has not missed a beat in terms of passing efficiency since returning from a leg injury. But Carroll is waiting for the third-year sophomore to prove he can sprint and elude pressure without fear.

"That's one part of it I want to see -- that he's confident in his ability to run and escape and all that," Carroll said Wednesday after practice. "He's never played when he wasn't like that."

Corp's speed and elusiveness, coupled with his passing, made him a nearly unstoppable dual threat at Orange Lutheran High.

During spring practice, he frustrated the Trojans' defense by converting multiple third-down situations with his legs, a factor that helped him win the starting job heading into the summer.

On Wednesday, Carroll thought Corp missed an opportunity to show he was completely confident in the stability of his left leg. On one play, according to Carroll, Corp got past the line of scrimmage but did not weave or improvise through the secondary as he would have done before suffering a cracked fibula on Aug. 10.

The problem Corp is having is proprioception, defined as the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. I know its a mouthful...

Basically his mind is compensating his performance by protecting him from further injury. His body knows his still recovering and when you stress the body that way this is the body response especially if you have not fully rehabbed.

This not uncommon and you see it lot on ACL injuries.

Speed an mobility has been one of Corps strongest assets...his ability to get on the move if has to was something that we haven't in a QB at SC in quite a while and based on what I am reading he is not quite ready to turn on the jets yet.

I also think we are starting to see some cracks as to why this is an urgent issue...

There are different reasons for a healthy Corp to be the selection, but Carroll often refers to the most important factor after USC practices.

"It's not easy to learn to play the position here," he said. "It usually takes guys a couple years."

In practical terms, Carroll said he prefers other teams to go through "growing pains" at the position instead of USC. That explains why recent quarterback battles saw John David Booty beat out Mark Sanchez and Sanchez easily win the job over Mitch Mustain.

But this time its different when your two most promising QB's on the team are still very new to the system.

Carroll's first quarterback derby pitted sophomore Matt Leinart against junior Matt Cassel, but they essentially were even in experience because each spent two years learning Carroll and Norm Chow's system.

The wild card in this year's race is 18-year-old freshman Matt Barkley's ability to pick up the offense.

"We've never had a guy this young do it at this pace," Carroll said. "He's well ahead of all the other guys at the same stage, John David or Mark or Matt."

It may be impressive but Barkley is still the "rookie" here and he is making rookie mistakes.

More intriguing is that Corp is taking snaps with the second unit not the first unit. It might not be a big deal to some as there is not a huge drop off in talent but it is also telling.

If Barkley was less interception prone than we have seen I can pretty much say with confidence that this would have been a done deal. But Corp has been relatively turnover free while Barkley is probably still adjusting to a play book that is a little more complicated than his high school days and a defense that faster and more tenacious than he has ever seen.

When you look at it more closely I think it is safe to say that SC really hasn't been in this type of position before. It is unfortunate that Mitch Mustain hasn't picked the offense up as fast as we had hoped but we are where we are. I do not get the sense that Pete Carroll is going to cut any corners here. He wants to see Corp more mobile than he is currently seeing. If he can't be then Barkley will probably get the start.

Corp knows what is on the line...

"I have to prove myself all over again," Corp said. "But I don't think the doctors would have me out here if I couldn't handle contact."

Yeap...that's the way it goes!

It will be a nail biter no question...

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O'Dowd looks to return...

One player that can help calm our nerves is center Kristofer O'Dowd. His maturity and leadership on the line will go a long way to instilling a sense of calm and focus on the offensive line and O'Dowd is looking to return for the opener against San Jose St.

Center Kris O'Dowd, who dislocated his kneecap last week, said he wants to try to return for the San Jose State game on Sept. 5.

"I'm trying to come back by Wednesday; I think it's a reality," O'Dowd said.

O'Dowd is waiting for some torn ligaments around the kneecap to heal and form scar tissue so that he can come back.

If not, Jeff Byers will start at center against San Jose State, with Alex Parsons and Butch Lewis starting at guard, while Tyron Smith and Charles Brown start at tackle.

O'Dowd has really been the anchor on the line for such a young player.

- - -

WIlliams Getting back into a groove...

Of course one other player who will play a significant role is Damian Williams...here is a little more on his return.

Damian Williams, USC's leading receiver last season, returned Tuesday after missing more than a week because of a bruised quadriceps. He said Wednesday he's still "working through it."

"Once you miss a week of practice, it just takes a minute to get going," Williams said. "I missed a week, plus the two days that we all had off. I stayed (in) training, but regardless of what you do in terms of trying to keep your wind up, it's still nothing compared to the actual, real thing.

"I'm basically just trying to make sure I stay sharp in my technique and detail, and I'll be all right."

Williams will be an important cog in the machine no question.

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Here are some other links of interest...

Maintaining connections: From high school to USC

Ranking the Pac-10 running backs - Pac-10 - ESPN

Pac-10 football: Projections for ‘09 (final version, I swear) | Wilner

In the heat of USC, UCLA scrimmages, he's seeing things -- latimes.com