LOS ANGELES — Freshman Matt Barkley was named No. 4 Southern California’s starting quarterback on Thursday.
With an outstanding performance at training camp, Barkley beat out sophomore Aaron Corp to get the start in the Trojans’ season opener against San Jose State at the Coliseum on Sept. 5. Coach Pete Carroll unexpectedly announced his decision several hours before practice and two days before USC’s mock game.
“He has exceeded all our expectations,” Carroll said in a statement. “He has all the physical ability. He has the mentality and temperament to handle the position. His personality is very well received by all the players, and he’s extremely talented. At this point, he’s ready to be the guy for us.”
Barkley was perhaps the nation’s most sought-after football recruit last year at Orange County’s Mater Dei High School, the alma mater of fellow USC quarterback Matt Leinart. After choosing the Trojans, Barkley graduated from high school one semester early to participate in spring practice.
Corp, in his third year at USC, was named the Trojans’ starter out of spring ball, but Barkley took advantage when Corp missed two weeks of workouts this month after breaking a small bone below his left knee Aug. 10.
Barkley is thought to be the first non-redshirt freshman quarterback to be picked to start a season opener for the Trojans.
“He’s the starting quarterback at USC — it’s not a one-game deal,” Carroll said. “He seized the opportunity that was in front of him and took control. He deserves all the credit in the world, and we expect nothing but great things from him.”
Barkley also beat out Mitch Mustain, the former Arkansas starter who played eight games as Mark Sanchez’s backup last season. Sanchez, now the New York Jets’ starting quarterback, left USC with a year of eligibility remaining, a decision that initially bothered Carroll and set off the three-way competition.
Now Barkley must shoulder the enormous expectations of his position at USC. He’s following nearly a decade of outstanding college quarterbacks, including Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Leinart, along with John David Booty and Sanchez.
USC opens the run for its eighth consecutive Pac-10 title next weekend against the Spartans before Barkley’s ultimate early test – a trip to Columbus to face No. 6 Ohio State on Sept. 12.
Corp returned to full-speed practice Tuesday while wearing a knee brace, but Carroll said he will have a limited role in Saturday’s camp-ending scrimmage.
“Aaron has done a marvelous job of getting back from his injury,” Carroll said. “By next Saturday, we’d expect him to be ready to play if needed, but he’s not ready yet. The competition will continue at this position, but at this point, Barkley is our starting quarterback.”