The inflatable jungle gyms beyond the east endzone were not the only thing that caught my eye Saturday at USC's spring football game.
Mitch Mustain's game was just as intriguing and impressive as a 50-foot slide or a moon bounce. Mustain was 19/29 passing for 299 yards and five TDs. While most of his reps in the first half came against the second-string defense, in the second half he faced the starters.
Mustain played the majority of the second half, while incumbent starter Matt Barkley rested a sore right hand, and seemed to get more and more comfortable as the second half went on. Barkley was 7/19 for 87 yards, and 41 of his 87 came on his lone touchdown pass to a wide-open Patrick Patterson.
Just by looking at the statistics alone, one can see that Mustain had a better game on Saturday, but it wasn't his stats that jumped out to me. He showed a much better ability than Barkley to move in the pocket, throw on the run, and make plays. Mustain seldom forced passes, and the majority of his incompletions were thrown in areas where no one could make a play on the ball other then his receivers.
Barkley looked average and seemed to fit the mold of the "doesn't lose you games" quarterback. USC cannot get by with just an average quarterback, like they did in the Booty era, because they do no have the supporting cast that they did in 2007. Mustain provides that extra spark that the Trojans offense needs to help them get back to the top of the Pac-10.
Maybe all Mustain needed was another fresh start.
He left Arkansas after leading them to a perfect 8-0 record because he was angry with coaching changes, only to sit on the bench at USC behind Mark Sanchez, and eventually Matt Barkley and Aaron Corp. Even after Corp's catastrophe of a game against Washington, Carroll chose an injured Barkley over Mustain to start the next game—and because of Carroll, Mustain did not know the offense.
He seemed to have grasped the offense on Saturday, putting to rest the belief that he wouldn't be able to learn a new offense after playing in the same system in high school and his freshman year at Arkansas
Some may wonder if he has personality issues because of his angry split with Arkansas. But the fact that Mustain did not complain when an injured freshmen was started over him speaks volumes to the maturity level that he possesses. Now that Carroll is gone, Mustain has a chance to impress a new coaching staff, and lead the Trojans to greatness.