After one year at quarterback for USC, it’s hard not to think of the words Matt Barkley offered up after the regular season finale against Arizona.
“Unbelievable,” he said. “Amazing. Crazy.
"It's been a lot of - I don't want to say like a rollercoaster - but up and down at times. It's been a crazy year."
And that was before Pete Carroll left for the NFL, creating a weeklong vacuum of speculation, rumor and turmoil, which ended with the return of Lane Kiffin to Troy.
Barkley’s rookie season was the Trojans’ in microcosm. There were equal doses of high and low, triumph and failure. He became the first true freshman ever to start the season opener at quarterback for USC, posted a 4-1 road record with wins at Columbus, South Bend and Berkeley, another rivalry sweep and a strong bowl performance after a late slump.
However, Barkley failed to complete 60 percent of his passes and threw just one more touchdown than interception. When Damian Williams, Anthony McCoy and Stanley Havili were sidelined by injuries late in the year, he was unable to elevate others and revive the stagnant offense.
Those in and around the program will debate for years to come whether Aaron Corp or Mitch Mustain would have done better, could have done better given the shaky playcalling, lack of offensive identity, series of injuries and a lack of playmakers.
In that vacuum comes Kiffin, who found a formula that worked in his one year at Tennessee. The perennially erratic Jonathan Crompton became one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks, throwing for 27 touchdowns. The Vols carried the ball 477 times, 76 more runs than pass attempts, with Montario Hardesty receiving the bulk of work (282 rushes; the next highest total was 101).
Barkley must surely be dreaming of Allen Bradford carrying the ball 20 or more times per game, creating deep opportunities for Ronald Johnson and company off play action. That is if Barkley keeps the job.
Kiffin has pledged open competition at all positions, which presumably means Mustain gets a shot at the top job.
The one-time Razorback has been ever the good soldier during his time at USC, but never attempted a throw last season.
The biggest question might be with the Trojans’ third quarterback. After Corp’s transfer, USC will carry only three scholarship players at the position, counting the arrival of true freshman Jesse Scroggins in the fall.
Scroggins is sure to see a substantial workload in the summer and fall in an attempt to prepare him for possible game action. It is certainly possible to use three or more signal callers, as Oregon, Washington State and UCLA have shown in recent years.
Walk-on John Manoogian has flashed plenty of ability in informal throwing sessions and has become a key resource for players looking to get in extra work. One opined that Manoogian would see action at some other schools.
The ideal scenario might be to have Manoogian serve as the No. 3, allowing Scroggins to redshirt.
The limited numbers could carry over into 2010 game preparation, specifically who runs the scout team and thus prepares the defense for that week’s game.
Matt Barkley is looking to have a big sophomore season for the Trojans.
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