For a while Wednesday, the trainers-table area at USC's practice facility looked like a convention for injured Trojans starters.
Quarterback Matt Barkley sat on a folding chair with an ice pack on his right shoulder. All-American safety Taylor Mays camped on the table, taking weight off his sprained right knee. And tailback Joe McKnight, suffering from migraine headaches, stood with a towel wrapped around his head to shield his eyes from the sun and his ears from music blaring from loudspeakers.
Meantime, out on the field, sophomore quarterback Aaron Corp looked the picture of health while taking another step toward possibly making his first career start.
Unless Barkley makes an improbable recovery from a bone bruise, Corp is on track to be under center when the Trojans open Pacific 10 Conference play on Saturday at Washington.
Corp, who had entered training camp No. 1 on the depth chart, had a pass intercepted for the third consecutive practice. But he continued to show that he was no longer limited by the cracked fibula that he suffered on Aug. 10, an injury that opened the door for Barkley to start the first two games.
"He's taken over just like he had done in the spring time," Coach Pete Carroll said of Corp, "and so it feels comfortable to us having him get ready."
But apparently not comfortable enough to announce Corp as the starter.
Carroll and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates said they would wait to make a decision. Carroll, though, has made a habit of announcing quarterback decisions on Thursdays preceding Saturday games and scrimmages.
"If Aaron's the guy, we're fired up," Bates said.
Barkley has not thrown a pass in practice since injuring his shoulder last Saturday against Ohio State.
He took snaps and handed off the ball on Monday and Tuesday, but worked only with trainers on Wednesday and was forced to watch from the sideline.
"We don't want to blow it out here in practice trying to get him ready to see if he could throw," Carroll said. "If he had any discomfort we were going to wait.
"Obviously, it's still sore. . . . It's just going to be that way until he can throw through it."
USC did not make quarterbacks available to the media on Wednesday.
Players, however, said they would be prepared to welcome Corp as the starter.
"Let's hope if he gets this opportunity that he takes advantage of it like Barkley and then we can have two super quarterbacks," senior guard Jeff Byers said.
McKnight left the practice facility after about 30 minutes, saying he had begun to experience migraine symptoms following Tuesday's workout.
McKnight said he hoped to return to practice today.
Mays did some light running while wearing a knee brace. Carroll reiterated that Mays could play on Saturday without practicing during the week.
Mitch Mustain might not be able to find his way into the lineup at quarterback, but he could possibly do it as a punter.
Impressed by kicks Mustain made for fun during last Friday's walk-through at Ohio Stadium, Carroll had Mustain punt before, during and after practice on Wednesday.
Mustain also took second-team snaps at quarterback.
"He's got a leg on him," said receiver Damian Williams, who estimated that Mustain punted about five times during their senior season at Springdale High in Arkansas. "Sometimes you've just got to find a way onto the field and if that's what he wants to do then hats off to him.
"I was back there catching some [of his kicks] and he made me run for a couple."
Carroll said incumbent Billy O'Malley still led Jake Harfman in the competition to handle punting duties at Washington.
Mustain's kicking ability would be valuable because the Trojans are limited to 64 players for conference games.
Charles Brown returned after missing two days because of flu and is on track to start at left tackle. . . . Safety Drew McAllister worked in Mays' spot and would start if Mays does not play, Carroll said.
*--* DATE OPPONENT RESULT Sept. 5 San Jose State W, 56-3 Sept. 12 at Ohio State W, 18-15 Saturday at Washington 12:30 p.m. Sept. 26 Washington St. 7:15 p.m. Oct. 3 at California 5 p.m. Oct. 17 at Notre Dame 12:30 p.m. Oct. 24 Oregon State 5 p.m. Oct. 31 at Oregon 5 p.m. Nov. 7 at Arizona St. 5 p.m. Nov. 14 Stanford TBA Nov. 28 UCLA 7 p.m. Dec. 5 Arizona 12:30 p.m. *--*