Mustain still waiting in the wings for his turn


Oh, the joy of living in Los Angeles.

From the glitz and glamour to the A-list celebrities to the high-profile athletes, there is nothing better than Hollywood, right?

The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Dodgers are good enough for this town, and so are the USC Trojans — you might as well call them the professional football team of L.A.

Three storied franchises, three rich histories and three teams characterized by success — especially the USC football program, which has been nothing short of spectacular in the past decade. But even then, that might be an understatement.

And beneath all this winning, there is talent. There are players that ooze potential and star power.

Hopefully more isn’t found behind the scenes. The NCAA sanctions have left a dark cloud of uncertainty over the program and I can only hope that the flow of talent in the next couple years from five-star recruits, freak-of-nature athletes and lightning quick running backs does not slow down.

But behind the hyped hysteria of sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley, the jaw-dropping jukes of freshman running back Dillon Baxter and the return of coach Lane Kiffin lies one player who quietly goes about his business.

That’s where senior quarterback Mitch Mustain comes in.

His operation at Howard Jones Field is ever so sly and his undercover duties are overshadowed largely by well, pretty much everybody else.

Beneath the big lights lies a competitor just itching to play and prove his worth.

Then again, he might not need to.

Mustain is a proven winner. Dating back to his glory days in high school, he has compiled a 61-2 record.

And to me, that is definitely worthy of at least getting some playing time.

He has an unblemished record in college, compiling eight victories as a freshman at Arkansas. What more could you ask for?

Well, his former coach, Pete Carroll, was asking for something more, though it’s not clear what.

Many feel the job was already decided and given to Barkley ever since he stepped foot onto the hallowed grounds of Heritage Hall.

Maybe the media couldn’t help but express their excitement over Barkley because they were in the same boat as Carroll — they hailed him as the savior for the Trojans.

I’m not going to sit here and write that I have a solution to the problem, but as a fan last year, I realized something wasn’t right.

Maybe it was the 9-4 record the Trojans compiled. Hey, maybe we’re spoiled here at USC and expect nothing less than championships, but if it’s broken, do something about it.

Even when Barkley sat out one game at Washington, Carroll still chose to start former quarterback Aaron Corp. We all know how that one turned out — but I don’t recall any mention of Mustain.

And though it is only speculation at this point, what if Mustain started?

Think about this: We could have had Mustain start for two years and let Barkley harness his skills and potential in practice to prepare for the future, beginning his career at USC as just a redshirt sophomore.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Sure, Carroll might have sacrificed a year in hopes of reaping some type of reward.

But if you think about it, maybe a 9-4 record, speculation about violating NCAA sanctions and a dark cloud hanging over USC’s championships and former Heisman trophy winner is kind of refreshing actually.

Now that Kiffin has returned, Mustain has been given every opportunity to compete for a leading role.

Corp transferred to Richmond in the offseason and Barkley was dealing with a bruised hand during spring practice. And though ESPN’s College Football Live rates Barkley as “irreplaceable,” I’d beg to differ.

I think the Trojan coaches agree with me too because quarterbacks coach Clay Helton said they’d be “comfortable” handing the reigns over to Mustain.

Though not too many people expected Barkley to be supplanted by Mustain, there is still a chance that perhaps the role will be reversed.

“Mustain really wanted to come and compete and show that he’s a big-time quarterback who can help the team in any way,” Helton told ESPN. “We were very proud of the way Mitch responded during the spring.”

Well, now that spring is over and summer is almost in full swing, I’m excited for the start of fall practice.

I’m waiting for this saga to play out. Even though there are probably a lot of supporters for Barkley, I support you, Mustain.

I know that, given a chance to succeed, you will do exactly that.

Your record in high school and in college shows it.

Your spring practice performances, including 19 of 29 passes completed for 299 yards and five touchdowns in the spring game, show it.

And your dedication to your craft — despite being relegated to backup duty behind Barkley and Mark Sanchez before him — shows it.

I’m hoping for a perfect Hollywood ending to this familiar script.

“In the Zone” runs every other Wednesday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Trevor at

trevor.wong@usc.edu

4 replies
  1. Bob Peterson
    Bob Peterson says:

    Mitch should have started last year, USC accepted his skills from Arkansas, he red-shirted, paid his dues so to speak. Barkley was not ready although I give him credit for the guts he displayed in beating OSU, his biggest game of last year.

  2. JPP
    JPP says:

    Of all the USC personnel mysteries emerging game-to-game last year, of all the puzzling Carroll behaviors, the disregard for Mitch Mustain is the deepest, most puzzling of them all. Given his chance I foresee many happy endings for both the Trojans and Mustain this fall.

  3. zman
    zman says:

    had Kiffin arrived last year it would have been interesting to watch how the QB competition would have gone under him.. Right now Barkley is clearly the starter because he has that one year.

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