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USC FYI

Scrimmage produces little excitement

That's OK with Pete Carroll, who is glad no one got hurt. Quarterback battle could heat up during the week.

August 23, 2009|Gary Klein

No touchdowns. No field goals.

No problems?

USC coaches and players weren't too concerned after the Trojans' offense failed to score Saturday during a 69-play scrimmage that concluded training camp.

On a hot, muggy afternoon, the Trojans looked as if they couldn't wait for a two-day break after 15 consecutive days of practices, full-speed "walk-throughs" and meetings.

Coach Pete Carroll praised the defense and also expressed relief.

"I love we got out of here with no one getting banged up," he said.

That's what amounted to a victory in a scrimmage that was already devoid of numerous injured starters and featured only two points scored on a safety.

When the Trojans resume practice Tuesday, the focus will be on the offense, specifically quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Aaron Corp.

The Sept. 5 opener against San Jose State is less than two weeks away, and Carroll and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates must decide whether to reinstall Corp atop the depth chart or make Barkley the first true freshman quarterback to start an opener for the Trojans.

Barkley went into Saturday's scrimmage hoping to bounce back from last Monday's five-for-18 passing performance at the Coliseum.

Focusing mostly on shorter routes, the freshman was seven of 13 for 56 yards in five series against the first-team defense. Receivers, however, dropped several passes that would have kept drives going, and penalties stifled others.

Barkley, though, was responsible for throwing a long pass into the end zone that safety Josh Pinkard intercepted.

Nevertheless, Barkley said he was pleased with his progress since the last scrimmage.

"I felt really calm out there and confident," he said. "There were just a couple plays, a couple third downs that would have made a big change. . . . I really think we're just an inch away from being great."

Barkley has taken nearly every first-team snap since Corp suffered a leg injury Aug. 10. Classes start Monday, and he plans to spend today at his family's home, resting and gearing up for a renewed battle with the third-year sophomore, who is expected to return to full practice Tuesday.

Barkley likes where he is positioned.

"I feel confident in where I am and feel like I did what I had to do to please the coaches and see what they wanted to see in a starting quarterback," he said.

Corp is now on the clock to return by Tuesday.

After running five plays in a full-team setting during Saturday's morning practice, he said his mobility was still somewhat limited. But Corp will spend the next two-plus days continuing to heal and rehabilitate his cracked left fibula.

"I'll be ready to go by Tuesday," he said.

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Elected leaders

Offensive lineman Jeff Byers, receiver Damian Williams and safeties Taylor Mays and Pinkard were elected captains by their teammates.

Pinkard and Byers are sixth-year seniors. Mays is a fourth-year senior and Williams, who transferred from Arkansas in 2007, is a fourth-year junior.

It marks the first time since 2003, and only the second time in Carroll's nine seasons, that a quarterback is not a captain.

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Lean on Withers

Carroll told his players he would get exact "a pound of flesh" when they "punked" him by staging a fake fight last week.

Carroll got even Friday night by enlisting the help of singer Bill Withers.

Withers posed as an NCAA representative, who talked about fictional fungus before telling the players his true identity and joining them in song.

Withers' connection to USC came about after freshman linebacker Marquis Simmons led the team in a version of Withers' hit "Lean on Me," earlier in training camp.

"He was more than willing to do it," Carroll said. "It was an extraordinary gift he gave us, but he had a ball."

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Quick hits

Linebacker Shane Horton stopped tailback Curtis McNeal in the end zone for the safety. . . . Defensive end Malik Jackson had four tackles, including two sacks . . . Mitch Mustain completed six of 12 passes for 57 yards against reserves. . . . Jake Harfman averaged 39.3 yards on four punts, including one that was downed at the two-yard line and set up the safety. . . . Magic Johnson addressed the Trojans after the scrimmage.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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