The Trojans have three games left in the 2009 season, but quarterback Matt Barkley is already being asked to evaluate his performance.
Such is life when you’re a 19-year-old true freshman starting at a top-10 program.
“I think I’ve done alright,” Barkley said after practice Tuesday. “I didn’t really know how it would pan out. Coming into the season, I was just going to take it one game at a time, but I’m pretty happy with how we played and happy that we’re winning.”
USC is winning, in the literal sense of the word.
The Trojans are 7-2 after squeaking by Arizona State on Saturday, but Barkley’s dealing with pressure yet unseen this season after completing just 7-of-22 attempts against the Sun Devils.
“I’ve corrected things mentally and physically in my game, going over film with Coach [Jeremy] Bates and stuff,” Barkley said. “But we’re confident this week that we’re gonna have a complete game and finish strong.”
Things did appear different on Tuesday.
On the final play of the first-team scrimmage on Tuesday, with the score tied 7-7 and bragging rights on the line, Barkley rolled out left to avoid a rush and delivered an across-the-body strike to redshirt sophomore tight end Rhett Ellison.
“I’m not trying to make up for yards that I could have had or anything like that,” Barkley said. “That’s not how we play and that’s not how I want to play.”
Barkley will be getting back some of his offensive weapons against Stanford, as both senior tight end Anthony McCoy and redshirt junior fullback Stanley Havili are on track to start against the Cardinal.
Havili has missed the last three games after suffering a separated shoulder in the Notre Dame game, while McCoy missed the last two contests with a sprained ankle.
“It’s huge,” Barkley said. “To have their leadership and their experience I think really helps. Just their presence on the field is huge.”
But redshirt junior receiver Damian Williams is still day-to-day with a sprained ankle suffered in the Arizona State game.
Carroll said Williams’ status would be determined later this week.
Stanford senior running back Toby Gerhart, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound bruiser, is gathering a lot of attention from the Trojans this week.
Gerhart has averaged 135 rushing yards and nearly two touchdowns per game this season while putting together an unlikely Heisman campaign.
Last week, he consistently burned Oregon on a career-high 38 carries, rushing for 223 yards and three touchdowns and losing yardage on only one carry.
USC will likely put eight in the box for at least some of the game against the Cardinal, meaning senior safety Will Harris would essentially play the role of a fourth linebacker in attempting to stop Gerhart.
“He’s a physical presence,” Harris said. “I’ve just gotta man up and basically just make my tackles and wrap up — bring the heart.”
Carroll compared Gerhart’s running style to that NFL great Jerome Bettis at his press conference.
“It’s that kind of style draws your focus because of the way he runs and the things that happens when he runs — knocking piles forward, and running over guys and all the cool things that he can do,” Carroll said.
18-year-old freshman fullback Simione Vehikite, all 6-feet and 245 pounds of him, played the role of Gerhart in scout team play on Tuesday. Carroll said Vehikite did a solid job emulating the ruggedness of Gerhart, but pointed out that few possess Gerhart’s same combination of size and speed that has terrorized Pac-10 teams this season.