The departure of Mark Sanchez means that USC will be breaking in a new starter next season. Luckily, the Trojans are probably the most talent-laden team in college football, and will have three top level talents competing for the spot.
The early favorite has to be former Arkansas QB Mitch Mustain. Mustain was the top recruit in 2006 when he signed on with the Razorbacks.
Following, ironically, a opening weekend drubbing to USC, Mustain supplanted then-starter Robert Johnson for the Hogs. Mustain proceeded to lead Arkansas to seven straight wins before Houston Nutt controversially replaced Mustain with Casey Dick.
Mustain, in a much publicized move, decided to transfer from Arkansas to USC following the 2006 season. In 2007, Mustain redshirted under NCAA transfer rules, but still quarterbacked the Trojans scout team.
This past season Mustain saw limited action in relief of Mark Sanchez, attempting only 16 passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Coach Pete Carroll would be most likely to give Mustain the nod because of his experience—Mustain will be entering his fourth year in college football—and because he has already shown a propensity for success at the collegiate level.
Mustain's biggest competition is likely to come in the form of true freshmen Matt Barkley. Barkley played for Mater Dai high school in California, the same school that produced players like Colt Brennan and Matt Leinart.
Most scouting services had Barkley as the top prospect in the country entering the 2008 season. However, a disappointing senior year bumped him from the top of many lists, though he has seen a resurgence due to an impressive performance in the Under Armour All American Game.
Barkley has to be considered the favorite to take over the starting role at some point down the road, whether that will be next season remains to be seen, but he is graduating early which means that he'll be on campus for spring workouts giving him a great bump toward that starting job.
The wild card in all of this will be Aaron Corp. Corp, while not as celebrated in the recruiting services as Barkley or Mustain, is the most athletic of the three quarterbacks, and having already spent two season in LA, the soon-to-be redshirt sophomore is no stranger to Carroll's system.
No matter who wins the role, that player is certain to be one of the most talked about, discussed, and criticized players in college football next year. That player will also face trial by fire early in the season when the Trojans make a September 12th visit to the Horseshoe and a rematch with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
While Sanchez's decision may be ill-received by many on the USC campus, for college football fans it has created one of the most interesting off-season storylines as we head into 2009.