USC coaches are quick to remind that the Trojans' spring quarterback competition could extend into training camp in August.
Freshman Matt Barkley's performance during the last three weeks and junior Mitch Mustain's game experience at Arkansas might indeed warrant a more extended look as they try to catch sophomore Aaron Corp.
Corp, however, is intent on leaving no question about who should be named the starter heading into the summer and for the Sept. 5 season opener against San Jose State.
Corp continued to make his case on Saturday with his best all-around performance of the spring.
The former Orange Lutheran High star led three scoring drives, completed more than 70% of his passes and also scrambled three times for 40 yards during a 99-play scrimmage.
Corp seemed to take a big step earlier in the week by moving away from safer, shorter throws and attempting tougher passes downfield.
On Saturday, he extended his range even more, connecting with receiver Damian Williams on a 46-yard pass along the left sideline against the first-team defense. The play set up a short touchdown run by tailback Stafon Johnson.
"I didn't think I had to show off my arm strength or anything," said Corp, who completed 13 of 18 passes for 170 yards in six series. "I knew I could throw deep. It's just a matter of not forcing the issue."
Corp has been the poster boy for avoiding errors: He has not had a pass intercepted through 12 spring workouts.
Barkley, meanwhile, had another otherwise outstanding day marred by an interception, his third in as many scrimmages. Defensive end Malik Jackson caught the attempted screen pass and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown.
"A bonehead pick," Coach Pete Carroll said.
"I made a bad play by not throwing it into the ground," Barkley said.
Barkley, though, continued to impress and finished 15 for 21 for 186 yards in four series. He completed passes on several difficult throws and led two scoring drives, including one that he finished with a 14-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jordan Cameron.
"I was pretty mad after [the interception] but just shook it off," Barkley said.
Mustain led one scoring drive in four series and finished three for six for 33 yards.
The Trojans have only three workouts remaining, including next Saturday's scrimmage at the Coliseum. Asked if that was enough time for him to make a statement, Mustain said, "I don't know. I do what I can with what I'm given, so we'll see what happens Tuesday and Thursday and then how they divide it up Saturday."
In a rush
Freshman Curtis McNeal continued to show that he could contribute in the fall, rushing for 62 yards and a touchdown in 10 carries.
McNeal is generously listed as 5 feet 8, but coaches have been impressed with his speed and toughness, especially in pass protection.
"He is getting it done," running backs coach Todd McNair said.
Sophomore tailback Marc Tyler rushed for 49 yards in nine carries, his best performance of the spring.
Junior defensive end Everson Griffen appears to be fulfilling the potential he showed during his freshman season in 2007.
The 6-3, 265-pound Griffen has been a constant presence in the backfield throughout the spring and has been especially tough on an offensive line that is without veteran tackles Charles Brown and Butch Lewis because of groin injuries.
Griffen had five tackles on Saturday, including 3 1/2 sacks.
Jeremy Bates, the quarterbacks coach and play-caller, was pleased with the offense's progression. "We're moving in the right direction," Bates said. . . . Outside linebacker Malcolm Smith made eight tackles, middle linebacker Chris Galippo seven. . . . Jordan Congdon kicked field goals of 22 and 35 yards. Joe Houston made a 23-yard attempt but missed from 46 yards. . . . Cameron had his most productive day, catching four passes for 49 yards and the touchdown.