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August 27, 2009Mark Sanchez couldn't do it. Rodney Peete didn't do it. Neither did Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer or any other USC quarterback in the history of one of college football's most prestigious programs.
But, Pete Carroll and the Trojans coaching staff have seen something different in Matt Barkley. Something that will make him the first true freshman in school history to start at quarterback in a season opener.
"It's clear to us as a staff that Matt Barkley is ready to be the starting quarterback at USC," Carroll said in a statement Thursday. "He has exceeded all our expectations. He has all the physical ability, he has the mentality and temperament to handle the position, his personality is very well received by all the players and he's extremely talented.
"At this point, he's ready to be the guy for us."
The decision comes just two days after Aaron Corp, the No. 1 quarterback coming out of spring practice, practiced at full speed after missing more than two weeks with a cracked left fibula.
"Aaron has done a marvelous job of getting back from his injury," Carroll said. "By next Saturday, we'd expect him to be ready to play if needed, but he's not ready yet. The competition will continue at this position, but at this point, Barkley is our starting quarterback."
Barkley will work with the first unit in Saturday's final scrimmage at the Coliseum.
Corp appeared ready to regain the starting spot before questions about his health surfaced Wednesday.
"We want to see that he's confident in his ability to run and escape. He's never played when he wasn't like that. I'm a little reluctant to think he'll be comfortable if he can't run like he always has," Carroll said Wednesday. "I don't want him to get in a bad situation. We're just watching and learning and growing. We don't have a tremendous amount of experience with him, so I need to kind of feel him a little more to make sure he's well."
Barkley has struggled in USC's two scrimmages. In the first, Barkley completed just 5-of-18 attempts for 109 yards. In the second scrimmage, he was a little better, going 7-of-13 for 57 yards with an interception.
After the most recent scrimmage, when the USC offense didn't score a point, safety Taylor Mays said Barkley still has some learning to do.
"We have to remember Matt is still a true freshman. He's still going to make true-freshman mistakes," Mays said. "He's also going to do things fifth-year seniors can't do, but he's still a true freshman and he's still learning.
"As long as he learns from the mistakes, he'll be fine."
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