After a long week of practices and plenty of questions, USC Head Coach Pete Carroll has decided to start sophomore quarterback Aaron Corp over injured Matt Barkley this Saturday against the Washington Huskies. Now, my question is this: Did Carroll have this in mind the entire time?
One would think that if a freshman quarterback led his team on a game winning drive in one of the most brutal atmospheres, his job was certainly secure. Not Barkley's though. Aaron Corp will now be taking snaps from behind center on Saturday and in my opinion, I think Carroll wanted it this way.
Corp was not working with the first team offense a few weeks before the season opener for no reason; the coaches liked what they saw and felt like he gave them the best chance of winning. However, just a week or so later Corp suffered a knee injury which would ultimately make him the backup for the home opener against San Jose State.
Barkley played well in the first game and Corp's knee was still trying to heal up. Barkley still looked better although Corp was said to have been improving and gaining more mobility each and every day.
Here is where the mind games and speculation on my part comes in. I believe Carroll was confident enough in his team that he could win at the "Shoe" with a true freshman quarterback. Also because it gave Barkley the confidence and experience necessary if he needed to be the man later on.
The offensive game plan against the Buckeyes was very conservative and allowed for Barkley to manage the game to win rather than putting him in a position to lose (although it almost back fired).
Now, Barkley was injured during the win in Columbus and suddenly it appeared as though maybe Corp would get his starting job back for the Pac 10 opener in Seattle. Perfect right?
Now Carroll could go back to his original plan at the start of the year since Corp is now back to being 100 percent. I am not suggesting that Barkley and USC are fabricating the shoulder injury, but I do think no matter the circumstance, Corp was going to be the starter once he was back to full speed.
In addition, not only is this the perfect week for Corp to return (Pac 10 opener), Carroll was able to play mind games with his former offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt all week.
Why do you think it took so long for the "official" word to be spread that Corp would be the starter? It is not a coincidence...Carroll most likely knew after the OSU game that his man was 100 percent Aaron Corp.
Mind games were played and Carroll, you can bet, enjoyed keeping Washington and the rest of the fans on their toes.
How will this change the game this weekend though? Is Corp's game much different?
I don't think it will change the approach that the Huskies will take on defense because whether or not it was Corp or Barkley, they're most likely going to put eight guys in the box and make their arms beat them.
Nevertheless, Corp does bring a new dimension to USC's offense that Barkley and other past quarterbacks have not brought to the table; a mobile quarterback.
We aren't talking about a Michael Vick type runner but we are talking about a guy with a 4.59 40 time. He has great speed and a ton of ability to move around the pocket or even scramble down field for big gains.
I would not be shocked to see some quarterback draws called from shotgun and maybe even an option or two called to spread the defense out. He is a very, very good athlete and I think people will be shocked at how good he is and how he can turn nothing into something in a hurry.
Some of you may be thinking: now does Matt Barkley come back now and start once he is back to full strength?
My answer would be no.
What has Coach Carroll always said? That a player never loses his starting job to an injury. If Corp really was their No. 1 several weeks ago before the injury, we should expect to see him start the rest of the season as long as he remains healthy.
In my eyes, this is Corp's job to lose and Carroll's perfect test to see what he can bring to the offense. A loss to Washington could change everything but I expect USC to come out hungry.
Side note: Watch for Corp to Damian Williams this weekend, they have a similar relationship to what Williams and Mark Sanchez had last year and could put up big numbers.
Lastly, third string quarterback and highly recruited Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain may have just found a way to get playing time...but it isn't what you are thinking. Mustain has been punting; yes, I said punting, this week in practice, and may get a shot to show off his leg against UW.