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USC FOOTBALL

Aaron Corp will provide a different look

The replacement for Matt Barkley is mobile, but so is Washington's Jake Locker.

September 19, 2009|Gary Klein

USC Coach Pete Carroll takes on disciples Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt in the Pacific 10 Conference opener for both teams. The Trojans, favored by almost three touchdowns, have won or shared seven consecutive conference titles. Times staff writer Gary Klein looks at some of the game's key issues and matchups:

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Starting out

With freshman quarterback Matt Barkley nursing a bone bruise in his throwing arm, third-year sophomore Aaron Corp will start for the first time since accounting for six touchdowns -- four passing, two running -- in leading Orange Lutheran High to the 2006 California state Division II title.

Just as they did with Barkley in his debut against San Jose State, expect Carroll and play-caller Jeremy Bates to keep it simple. They want Corp to manage the game, not attempt to win it. Corp's running ability could give the Trojans a little bit of a new look.

Speaking of quarterbacks who can run, Carroll and Trojans defensive players fear Washington quarterback Jake Locker far more than they did Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor. And the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Locker can throw too.

During the off-season, Sarkisian asked Locker to slim down a bit. The makeover, along with Sarkisian's quarterback coaching expertise, has already paid dividends: Locker has completed 60% of his passes for five touchdowns with one interception.

Locker will be facing a Trojans secondary that might be without All-American safety Taylor Mays (knee). Brian Baucham, the Trojans' third cornerback, also is out because of injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident.

On the run

USC's rushing attack looked formidable in a 342-yard performance against San Jose State, but Ohio State limited the Trojans to 118 yards.

Tailback Joe McKnight, who carried USC during its game-winning drive at Ohio State, missed two practices this week because of migraine headaches and flu.

Carroll says McKnight will start, but Stafon Johnson and Allen Bradford could see more carries and C.J. Gable may resurface.

Washington features redshirt freshman Chris Polk, a former Redlands East Valley High star who made a commitment to the Trojans but reversed field and signed with the Huskies.

Emotional rescue

Other than controlling Locker, USC's biggest obstacle might be getting past the Ohio State victory.

Last season, the Trojans came off a rout of the Buckeyes and were upset by Oregon State in a conference opener on the road. The loss cost the Trojans a shot at the Bowl Championship Series title.

So, here they are again, on the road for a Pac-10 opener against a supposedly undermanned opponent.

If USC starts building a lead, don't expect Carroll to hold down the score for friendship's sake. Sarkisian and his staff have demonstrated that they are going to recruit the Southland aggressively and Carroll wants to stifle any chance of them making further inroads.

Up front

Sarkisian and strength coach Ivan Lewis, a former USC staffer, have tried to mold Huskies' linemen in the Trojans' image. That is, lighter, stronger and more athletic.

Washington's offensive line has progressed, but it might have its hands full with a Trojans defensive front led by tackle Jurrell Casey and end Everson Griffen.

USC's offensive line struggled against Ohio State before coming together for the game-winning drive.

Linebackers E.J. Savannah, Donald Butler and Mason Foster lead the Huskies' defense.

Special circumstances

Punter Billy O'Malley must improve his 36-yard average or he risks losing his job, possibly to backup quarterback Mitch Mustain. The Trojans' blocking and snapping also was an issue against Ohio State.

Jordan Congdon made a key 21-yard field goal against the Buckeyes, but a 44-yard attempt hit the crossbar. Jake Harfman has only three touchbacks in 13 kickoffs.

Washington kicker Erik Folk has made three of four field-goal attempts, the longest from 37 yards. Will Mahan averages 44.8 yards a punt.

By the numbers

*--* USC CATEGORY WASH. 37.0 Scoring 32.5 9.0 Points given up 27.0 236.5 Passing offense 287.0 230.0 Rushing offense 139.0 466.5 Total offense 426.0 144.5 Passing defense 260.5 48.5 Rushing defense 106.0 193.0 Total defense 366.5 *--*

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gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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