A day after USC quarterback Aaron Corp proclaimed himself ready to start the season opener against San Jose State on Sept. 5, Coach Pete Carroll relayed a different message:
Not so fast.
Corp has not missed a beat in terms of passing efficiency since returning from a leg injury. But Carroll is waiting for the third-year sophomore to prove he can sprint and elude pressure without fear.
"That's one part of it I want to see -- that he's confident in his ability to run and escape and all that," Carroll said Wednesday after practice. "He's never played when he wasn't like that."
Corp's speed and elusiveness, coupled with his passing, made him a nearly unstoppable dual threat at Orange Lutheran High.
During spring practice, he frustrated the Trojans' defense by converting multiple third-down situations with his legs, a factor that helped him win the starting job heading into the summer.
On Wednesday, Carroll thought Corp missed an opportunity to show he was completely confident in the stability of his left leg. On one play, according to Carroll, Corp got past the line of scrimmage but did not weave or improvise through the secondary as he would have done before suffering a cracked fibula on Aug. 10.
"I'm a little reluctant to think he'll be comfortable if he can't run like he always has," Carroll said. "I don't want him to get in a bad situation."
USC did not make quarterbacks available to the media on Wednesday.
But Corp said on Tuesday that he could do "everything right now that playing quarterback at USC [requires] me to do. I feel good and it's only going to get better."
The Trojans practice today and have a walk-through Friday before playing Saturday's mock game at the Coliseum, which is regarded as something akin to a final exam for evaluating Corp and freshman Matt Barkley.
"We'll get three big days this week and we'll go see how it looks," Carroll said.
Corp again looked mostly sharp in competitive passing drills, throwing two short touchdown passes during a seven-on-seven period. His lone misstep was a fumbled snap exchange during a team scrimmage drill.
Barkley took the bulk of the first-team snaps and avoided major error as he continued his drive to become the first true freshman quarterback to start an opener for the Trojans.
Front and center
When center Kristofer O'Dowd suffered a dislocated kneecap during training camp, USC's original plan was for Alex Parsons to move from right guard to center.
But sixth-year senior Jeff Byers is working at center with the first-team offense and is on track to start the opener there, barring a quicker-than-expected return by O'Dowd.
Butch Lewis, who has started at both tackle spots, is playing left guard in Byers' place.
"At the next level, they might want you to play more than one position so to learn it now is fine," Lewis said.
Byers also is happy to diversify. "I'm a center fit for most [NFL] teams and a guard fit for a few teams," he said. "Being able to play more than one position in the NFL is huge."
Wes Horton, Nick Perry and Malik Jackson are on track to play in a rotation at strong-side defensive end in place of injured Armond Armstead, Carroll said. . . . Offensive guard Nick Howell (ankle) said he would probably return on Monday. Defensive tackle Averell Spicer (ankle) also is expected to return next week.