May 5, 2009

The more we know: Part Five

In the final edition of "The more we know," it's all a bout some unresolved issues.

We still haven't looked at the most impressive Trojan this spring, the decision to name Aaron Corp the starting quarterback and the unresolved issues still looming as the Trojans get set to defend the Pac-10 title in 2009.

Without further ado, here are the last three lessons I learned from watching the USC football team go through its spring practices.

Lesson 13: Jethro Franklin made the biggest impact this spring.

If you went to only one spring practice this season, you probably walked out of Howard Jones Field raving about someone on the defensive line. If you went to each of the Trojans' spring practices this season, you probably walked out each day raving about someone on the defensive line.

If it were just Everson Griffen or Averell Spicer dominating, it would be best to credit those individuals. But when it's literally everyone on the defensive line that has raised his game, credit has to be given elsewhere.

Franklin's treating these players with a balanced approach. He's stern, but at the same time, he jokes around with them. He's brutally honest and he's supportive.

Players have raved about the changes on the defensive line, the emphasis on the fundamentals and the teaching. These compliments aren't necessarily indictments on ex-defensive line coaches Nick Holt and David Watson. They are, however, indicative of Franklin's style.

In spring practices, no single group was more dominant than the defensive line, and this group, though young, should only get better as it continues to grow under Franklin's influence.

Lesson 14: Corp is No. 1 for now, but Matt Barkley's right there.

Aaron Crop deserved to be named the starting quarterback because of how he played this spring. He took care of the ball, moved the offense down the field nicely and showed his scrambling ability can be a nice weapon for the offense.

And it was the furthest thing from a surprise when Corp was named the Trojans' No. 1 quarterback. Still, there's a more than fair chance that Corp won't finish the season as the starting quarterback.

USC didn't expose Barkley to the entire offense in his first few months on campus, but by the time the Trojans take the field for fall camp, Barkley will know the sideline signals and more of the playbook.

He'll be more equipped to battle Corp, and if he performs at the same level he did this past spring, Barkley will give the Trojan coaches plenty to think about.

Corp will likely have to stumble or get hurt for Barkley to take the reigns, but if the offense gets turned over to the true freshman, it probably won't be given back.

Lesson 15: Nothing is over until Pete Carroll says it is (and he won't do that).

Quarterback isn't the only battle that will carry over into the fall. In fact, Carroll's entire competition-based philosophy is predicated on the fact that any starter's position can disappear if someone else outplays him.

Still, there are a few battles that are unresolved going into the summer and fall.

Both the placekicker and punter battles are on hold until junior college kicker Jake Harfman gets to campus. The offensive line is far from set, and Jurrell Casey and Christian Tupou are going to battle at nose tackle on the defensive line.

Will Harris and Josh Pinkard, two veterans, will duel for the right to start next to Taylor Mays at safety, and Shareece Wright's health could open the door for T.J. Bryant to sneak into the starting lineup.

With so many positional battles still up in the air, a 16th lesson has come into focus. It's going to be just as much fun to follow what happens in fall camp than it was to dissect spring ball.

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