Backups back up Barkley role

By Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times

With an open day this week after a blowout loss against Stanford, USC quarterbacks Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain are once again competing, though not for a starting position.

Freshman Matt Barkley remains No. 1 despite recent struggles that include a four-turnover performance in the Trojans’ 55-21 defeat.

“It is what it is,” Corp said Tuesday after the team’s first practice since the loss. “Matt’s our guy right now.

“The coaches are going to stick by him. And if I was in his position I’d want that too.”

Corp, a third-year sophomore, started in place of an injured Barkley in the Trojans’ 16-13 loss at Washington on Sept. 19. He is splitting second-team snaps with Mustain, whom he is trying to displace as Barkley’s backup before the Nov. 28 game against UCLA.

Mustain, 8-0 as Arkansas’ starting quarterback in 2006, played late in the game against Stanford. Asked how it felt not to be given an opportunity to compete for the starting position, the junior said, “It’s not new right now. Matt’s done his part. We’ve got a few more woes other than the quarterback. . . . Our biggest concern now is just getting the offense to click regardless of who the quarterback is.”

In nine games, Barkley has completed 58% of his passes for 2,035 yards and 11 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions.

He struggled in the second half against Oregon and throughout most of the game against Arizona State before losing a fumble and having three passes intercepted against Stanford.

Barkley said he was happy to be back on the field after a long weekend absorbing the loss.

“It does kind of feel like a fresh start out here,” he said. “We’ve moved on.”

Barkley is working to “get in sync” with a receiving corps that has been depleted by injuries suffered by Damian Williams and David Ausberry.

“We were reaching a peak and for some reason it started to decline,” he said of the offense. “I think I’ve progressed in different ways and kind of gotten sloppy in other ways.”

Barkley says he hopes to correct his mistakes before facing the Bruins.

“This position gets all the credit and it also gets all the criticism,” he said. “I knew that coming in.”

Williams questionable

Williams, who was sidelined for the Stanford game, is questionable for UCLA because of a high right-ankle sprain and what he also described as a stress “reaction” in a bone.

Williams was hoping to receive clearance from doctors to remove a protective plastic boot Tuesday night, but he will not practice this week regardless.

“The sooner I get out of the boot, the closer I am to playing,” he said.

Brice Butler, who started in Williams’ place against Stanford, did not practice because of fluid buildup in his back, a lingering condition that he said would probably require a postseason procedure.