USC Coach Lane Kiffin this week posited that, if not for two defensive lapses by the Trojans, quarterback Matt Barkley would be a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy.
On Wednesday, after a rain-soaked practice, Barkley acknowledged that he has eyed winning a Heisman at some point in his career.
"It's definitely a goal of mine," the sophomore said, "but … I've said this before: You can be good two weeks and then plummet the next week."
Barkley, who has passed for 20 touchdowns, with only four interceptions, hopes to avoid that fate when the Trojans resume their schedule Oct. 30 against top-ranked Oregon.
Barkley ranks first in the Pacific 10 Conference and eighth in the nation in passing efficiency.
Despite rain that fell throughout USC's 6 a.m. practice, Barkley and back-up Mitch Mustain looked sharp during another fast-paced workout that is an effort to mirror Oregon's style.
Barkley is among the players who have taken to the early-morning starts — sort of.
"You get it over with and you kind of have your afternoons free," Barkley said. "But I don't know if I could do it the whole year … 6 a.m. is pretty early."
Kiffin has been pleased with his team's effort.
"We're able to get a lot done in a short amount of time," he said after practice. "And now we're going back to bed."
A big leap
While freshman Robert Woods and senior Ronald Johnson have garnered most of the attention in the receiving corps, senior David Ausberry is enjoying his most productive season.
Ausberry, 6 feet 4 and 235 pounds, has caught 12 passes, three for touchdowns.
Last week against California, he again beat a smaller defender on a fade route for a touchdown.
"I feel like I've always been able to do it," said Ausberry, who sat out six games last season because of a stress fracture in a leg. "Sometimes it doesn't go your way and sometimes it does. When it does, you have to make something of it."
Ausberry worked at tight end during spring practice but returned to receiver during training camp.
With C.J. Gable injured and Allen Bradford struggling with ball-security issues, Ausberry played the final snaps against Cal at tailback. He had 14 yards in two carries.
"They know I can play; if they need me there and put me there, I'm going to do what I can," he said.
Making an impression
Gable, Bradford, Marc Tyler and Dillon Baxter are sidelined because of various injuries, so freshman tailback D.J. Morgan is getting the majority of reps.
Morgan, who played at Woodland Hills Taft High, is coming back from knee surgery and will be a redshirt this season.
"He showed some explosion, some quickness," Kiffin said.
The Trojans practice Thursday and will be off Friday and Saturday, before resuming practice Sunday afternoon. … Defensive end Wes Horton (back) and linebacker Malcolm Smith (knee) are among sidelined players expected to return for Tuesday's practice.