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Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Has Barkley changed a USC quarterback tradition?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Carson Palmer begat Matt Leinart. Matt Leinart begat John David Booty, who begat Mark Sanchez. Mark Sanchez begat Aaron Cor...

Wait! Hold the anointing oil.

Just last week, it seemed reasonable to discuss Aaron Corp moving to the head of the line at quarterback for USC. And Corp still figures to be announced as the Trojans' No. 1 quarterback before the spring game on April 25.

But when true freshman Matt Barkley -- really a high school senior, considering that's what he was before the first of the year -- completed 10 of 13 passes for 195 yards with three touchdowns in a scrimmage last Saturday, it thickened the plot considerably.

It also continued a pattern of Barkley gaining comfort with the offense, which allowed the talent that made him the nation's No. 1 prospect this recruiting season to blossom.

This means two things:

1. This fall likely will feature the most wide-open quarterback competition USC has had under coach Pete Carroll;

2. Mitch Mustain, the former national prep player of the year and a high-profile transfer from Arkansas, may be out of the race.

(Mitch: Don't despair. I'd like to introduce you to Matt Cassel).

Never before during Carroll's going-on nine-year tenure has the lead quarterback coming out of spring lost his perch. And Carroll, who obsesses about turnovers like Imelda Marcos does about shoes, has never previously considered a freshman.

So this is a break from a firmly established tradition.

Of course, Carroll loves to quibble -- mostly good naturedly -- with how reporters represent things during his post-practice media scrums.

Here's what Carroll said after practice Tuesday about the competition continuing into the fall, according to the Michael Lev of the Orange County Register.

"Surely. Just in all fairness to the time it takes to develop at the position, this competition may be on for a long time. Whether it goes into the fall or not ... we're going to start over in the fall anyway.

"We'll see how this thing ends in the next couple weeks. We have to make a call like we're playing the game for that last outing [the April 25 spring game], we'll make a decision there. And then the competition is on again. I've always said that when we go to camp, and you guys are like, 'Yeah, yeah, sure.' That's how we think. Things can change, and things can happen.

"Certainly, you can imagine, if Matt gets summertime and another fall camp, he's going to be that much more in command of things. We certainly aren't going to make a decision and close the door on anything. We'll just stay open, let the best guy win the job and go from there."

In other words, Barkley has been so good, he's changing the way things have been done in the past.

And so we have the biggest story in college football heading into the 2009 season.