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USC Football Preview: Consistency From Barkley Will Be Key For Trojans

Kate Rooney |
August 31, 2010 | 11:30 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Starting quarterback Matt Barkley has already blazed a trail or two during his time at USC.

In 2009, the Mater Dei standout became the first true freshman in USC history to start a season opener. On Monday, he was appointed team captain — the first sophomore QB to receive that honor.  

Despite these notable accomplishments, Barkley has yet to prove himself a sure thing on the gridiron.

His 2009 season started off strong -- a highlight being his stellar fourth quarter drive for the win against Ohio State in Week 2. Two months later, there was the Stanford game, in which he was picked off three times. 

Such peaks and valleys defined his freshman season and seem to have carried over into 2010 practices. Familiar demons have emerged in training camp, including issues with timing, third down conversions, and interceptions (he threw 14 last season, compared to 15 touchdowns).

But Barkley has a strong work ethic and has been dedicated to improving his athleticism and leadership capabilities this offseason. When the going gets tough, look for him to target senior wideout Ronald Johnson, a veteran who will lead a young but promising USC receiving corps. 

Barkley should also get a lot of behind-the-scenes support from backup QB Mitch Mustain.  

Mustain is a talented senior who in 2006 was one of the most highly recruited high school players in the country. Despite an 8-0 starting record at Arkansas his freshman year, Mustain’s USC career has been epitomized by narrowly missing the starting job. Nonetheless, he’s been in the conversation since transferring to USC in 2007. This offseason he took nearly as many practice snaps as Barkley. 

Mustain also put up statistics comparable to, and in some cases better than, Barkley’s in training camp (albeit against the second team defense). Should it be necessary, he is prepared to slip easily into the starting role this season.  

In the No. 3 quarterback spot is Jesse Scroggins, a freshman who spent part of the summer sidelined due to NCAA eligibility restrictions and, as a result, took few reps.

After a disappointing 9-4 finish for USC last year, with an even more disappointing 5-4 record in conference play, the Trojans need an explosive season from Barkley to regain form. The Pac-10 is up for grabs this year -- the stiffest competition will come from the Oregon Ducks (USC faces them in October).

Given the recent negative coverage in the media, Barkley will be burning to prove to naysayers that USC is still relevant in the face of the NCAA sanctions. 

We’ll see if he can keep that fire going every week.  

To reach staff writer Kate Rooney, click here.

If you enjoyed this article, also read Neon Tommy's running back, wide receiver and linebacker previews.



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