Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's passes away for USC, UCLA openers

USC used to be known as Tailback U, but not anymore. Howard Jones field has been transformed into Quarterback U by Coach Pete Carroll and one wonders how far the Trojans will go on the talented but inexperienced arm of freshman Matt Barkley, who will open the season under center Saturday against San Jose St.

The Trojans, or the Barkleys of Figueroa Street, have what amounts to a scrimmage against Dick Toomey's Spartans at the Coliseum, a warmup for next week's head-on collision with Ohio State in Columbus. When Toomey coached at Arizona, his defense was known as Desert Swarm, and although San Jose State can't be confused with anything that blew in from Tucson, the Spartans will try to give a good impersonation of Toomey's old Wildcats.

Barkley was given the starting job by Carroll because Aaron Corp, the redshirt sophomore and Pete's original choice for No. 1, broke his leg at the beginning of training camp. Carroll could have gone with Mitch Mustaine, the transfer from Arkansas who hasn't played much since his arrival from Little Rock, or Garrett Green, the senior utility player who spends most of his time on special teams and running the scout team in practice. But he didn't.

Maybe things worked out the way they were supposed to and Corp's injury just made it easier for Carroll to go with Barkley. Carroll has said that Barkley, who had representatives from every BCS school in the country standing at his locker at Mater Dei High hoping for a commitment autograph, isn't starting just for Saturday's game. Carroll hopes he's in it for the rest of the season and beyond, even longer that his predecessor Mark Sanchez's short tenure at Hertitage Hall.
Barkley's a raw talent and his main fault is interceptions, he has a recurring tendency to throw into double coverage, not because he can't read a defense, but because he's got the mind-set of "I can't miss."

The gods of college football and the USC faithful should have a better read on All-Matt after the Trojans make their way through San Jose.

Meanwhile, UCLA will travel through the lingering smoke screen left from last week's brush fires to the Rose Bowl to play San Diego State in the non-conference opener for both teams. Coach Rick Neuheisel isn't shooting for the stars, he just would like to improve on a 4-8 season that was hardly star-like.
The Bruins, who will be led by second-year freshman quarterback Kevin Prince, have added some royalty to their non-conference menu, specifically Tennessee and Kansas State on back-to-back weekends. The game against the Vols is at Rocky Top on Sept. 12.
UCLA has made a concerted effort to improve its offensive line, something that was so porous last season, Bruin quarterbacks spent more time in the hospital than on the field. Leaky doesn't begin to describe last year's UCLA's pass blocking.
Even though UCLA has never lost to San Diego St., Neuheisel isn't taking the Aztecs lightly, even though the visitors from the border town are expected to be a minor annoyance. The Bruins are favored by almost three touchdowns. Prince has played very little since his junior year in high school. He missed nearly all of his senior year with an injury, so his debut will be almost as scrutinized as his counterpart across town.

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