Logically, Mark Sanchez would be USC’s quarterback this season and Matt Barkley would be watching from the sidelines.
But Sanchez is cashing huge checks and playing for the New York Jets while Barkley is leading USC, with wins at Ohio State and Notre Dame on his resume.
There’s a simple explanation for these developments. Both quarterbacks have talent that has overcome any other factors.
The Jets took the unusual step of making Sanchez a starter without going through the usual learning process that most rookie quarterbacks can’t avoid. The Trojans recognized Barkley’s potential even though he was a true freshman and they had Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain, both possessing some college football experience.
Sanchez had a miserable day Sunday, throwing five interceptions in the Jets’ overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills. He had trouble with a strong wind that carried footballs all over the place. But he had totaled only five interceptions in five previous games and displayed the poise and ability that made him attractive to the Jets.
Barkley is rewarding Pete Carroll for the confidence the Trojan coach has shown in him. Many outsiders questioned Carroll’s decision to make Barkley the starter, but only the coach and his staff see the players on a daily basis and have the information to make decisions of this magnitude.
I see Carroll every week at his media session. I know he truly believes that Barkley, even as a freshman, gives USC its best chance to be successful.
“We’re just trying to win,” Carroll says when questioned about playing Barkley ahead of Corp and Mustain.
Factors such as experience can’t be discounted, but many coaches – including the boldest ones – regard talent as the most important ingredient.
Carroll was upset when Sanchez left school early to turn pro. It looks like he was wrong at that time. He’s a hugely successful college coach and he’s had NFL experience, but nobody is perfect all of the time.
Once Sanchez decided to leave, Carroll and Sanchez discussed the possibility of Barkley being the Trojan starter. As I hear it, Sanchez wondered about that, saying there was so much to learn.
Now USC is trying to win its eighth consecutive Pac-10 championship, and it looks like Barkley will be the starter all season unless he is injured.
The competition in practice between Corp and Mustain is important, because if one is needed it will be the one winning that practice field competition. With Carroll, it’s always about competing – at every position every day.
Corp had been ahead until the last couple of weeks when Mustain began being sharper with his passes. If either is needed Saturday night against Oregon State at the Coliseum it will probably be Mustain.