- Mark Saxon, ESPN Staff Writer
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To talk about a quarterback competition this spring would be immediately laughed off by anyone in earshot of Lane Kiffin.
Junior Matt Barkley has been starting since his true freshman season and the only other quarterbacks aside from walk-ons are freshmen Cody Kessler and Max Wittek and redshirt freshman Jesse Scroggins. Yet Kiffin still wants Barkley to be pushed by other quarterbacks, those on other campuses.
"Obviously, he's not going to get pushed here. We have no one else who's played," Kiffin said. "We want him competing against the best quarterbacks in the country, the Andrew Lucks, and taking that mindset into every practice."
The Trojans, of course, would love for Barkley to follow Luck's lead in another regard and return for his fourth season, but that's far from guaranteed. They do, however, have him for at least one more season and it's rare to have a junior quarterback with two full seasons of experience.
After the first practice of the spring Tuesday morning, Barkley said he'll work on his footwork, throwing mechanics and ability to read defenses this spring. The Trojans have switched to morning practices and Barkley will be showing up at 5 a.m. to begin stretching and getting taped.
In at least one regard, he has established himself. He clearly is the leader of the offense, and probably the team. He once hesitated to speak up in team settings.
"I definitely thought twice, just because maybe I don't know what I'm saying," Barkley said, "but at this point in my career here, I definitely know what I'm doing and look forward to speaking whatever I want."
4dChantel Jennings and Kevin Gemmell