After being third on USC’s quarterback depth chart all season, redshirt junior Mitch Mustain reclaimed the backup role, a position he shared with redshirt sophomore Aaron Corp last season.
Corp, named the starter after the end of spring practice, had been the backup to freshman Matt Barkley and started USC’s Pac-10 opener against Washington; now he assumes the third-string duties for the Trojans.
“Looking back, I was given a shot [against Washington] and I didn’t perform,” Corp said. “But, I was told we’re still competing, so that’s the way I’m looking at it.”
Mustain, who split snaps with Barkley with the first team at practice Tuesday, said he’s finally hitting his stride.
“I feel like I’ve been more consistent the past three weeks or so and I’m playing to my potential,” Mustain said. “It’s just settling some mechanics issues I had this summer; I could tell something was out of the ordinary and had been for awhile. I finally took the opportunity this summer to get it fixed and I think it helped a lot.”
Mustain’s ascension to the backup role is coach Pete Carroll’s fifth depth chart change since the beginning of spring practice. The reasons for the changes have ranged from injuries to performance in practices, but Carroll insists there is a method to his constant tinkering.
“We’re just trying to get the guys ready and play who’s the best; there’s nothing more to it than that,” Carroll said. “Aaron will come battling back — he’s not going to let up at all, he’s a competitor, but really this is about Mitch doing better.”
Carroll also noticed Mustain’s improved mechanics, which helped make his decision to name Mustain his back up against Notre Dame.
“Mitch is throwing the ball better right now, more firm, more effective — that’s it,” Carroll said.
South Bend, Ind. will offer the coldest conditions under which the Trojans have played all year, and — right on cue — the weather in Los Angeles cooperated Tuesday, giving the Trojans a rainy, miserable day to prepare for conditions not yet faced this season.
The game-time forecast is predicted at the low 40s, but the low 60s in Los Angeles was about as good as the Trojans could have asked for in preparation for Saturday’s night game.
“This was the start of the week for us, great conditions to work in. This is an advantage for us we can’t usually conjure,” Carroll said. “It helps us with all the issues that come with [the weather].”
For starter Matt Barkley, the weather is daunting but doesn’t take away from his enthusiasm.
“Today was good for us [to] get the ball wet and see what we do with it, and we had no fumbled snaps and the footing was good,” Barkley said. “I’d say wind is the worst, but I’m stoked.”
The conditions at Howard Jones Field Tuesday were unusual for the team — especially the rain‚ which gave the practice a more playful feel.
Junior running back Joe McKnight had some footing issues after scoring a touchdown during practice and couldn’t slow himself down before sliding out of the back of the end zone and falling on his back, uninjured.
A large trough of water appeared on the side of the field, in which coaches and players ended the day in a slide-off.
Among the sliders were offensive line coach Pat Ruel and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, who won the competition.
“Franklin threw a heck of an effort in the waning moments, he slid about six feet past where a man should go,” Carroll said.