April 24, 2009

Practice Insider: Corp emerging as leader

If Aaron Corp remains the starting quarterback at USC, there's no doubt his life will change.

Just being named the Trojans' starter for Saturday's Trojan Huddle was enough for Corp's cell phone to nearly explode with 100 text messages.

While the announcement Tuesday wasn't exactly a surprise, Corp did look slightly different when he led the Trojans on the field for their final spring practice before concluding the offseason Saturday.

For starters, he finally threw an interception.

"Of all the things, it had to be a screen pass," Corp said. "I thought I could get it by him, and he made a good play. He tipped it up to himself. I tried to punch it out, but…"

Corp's first pick of the spring didn't come at the hands of Taylor Mays, Josh Pinkard or Kevin Thomas. Instead it was sophomore defensive tackle Jurrell Casey ending the streak.

"I guess it had to happen sometime," Corp said.

Corp maintains being named the starter hasn't changed him, and that might be true. However, players like wide receiver Damian Williams think competing for the spot this spring greatly affected the sophomore's demeanor.

"He's more serious now, not that he wasn't before," Williams said. "It's just a different focus when you know you're not necessarily going to be the guy and when you come into it like, 'Shoot, I have a chance to be the guy.' Last year, he kind of knew he wasn't going to be the starter.

"His focus wasn't as narrow as it is now. "

Corp's emerged as an offensive leader, becoming more vocal in and out of the huddle. He's made sure players are paying attention when they're not on the field. He's done the little things like making sure no one leaves the huddle too early.

"This easiest thing for him is when everyone else knows what's going on," Williams said. "When you step up and you're being vocal and you're letting everyone know you're running the team, it's easier for us to rally around him."

USC head coach Pete Carroll said he's seen a little extra bounce in Corp's step since naming him the No. 1 quarterback on Tuesday.

"He's excited about it. He's openly stated that. It's cool; it's fun," Carroll said. "And, he's pumped up about it. He wants to go for it, you know. You look for that."

Now, it's time for him to play like the top guy. Carroll said Saturday's Trojan Huddle will be a major test.

"We have to watch how the plays go. This weekend will be important, too," he said. "This will be somewhat of a response to the announcement for all of the guys. We'll see how they fit it and how they wear it."

And Corp hopes to wear the added expectations of being the starting quarterback well.

"I just want to play well," Corp said. "I want to show the coaches that they can trust me and that they made the right decision. I'll just prepare and try to have a good day."

Thursday's reps

11-on-11 drills

Corp
- Complete short to Stanley Havili.
- Intercepted by Casey on screen; Corp's first interception of the spring.
- Complete to Brice Butler, lots of room for run after catch.
- Sacked by Averell Spicer.
- Handoff to Marc Tyler.

Matt Barkley
- Incomplete to Butler, can't make diving catch.
- Complete to Brandon Carswell, deep touchdown,
- Fumbled snap; Curtis McNeal recovered.
- Complete to McNeal, screen.
- Complete to David Ausberry.

Mitch Mustain
- Complete to Carswell.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson.
- Incomplete to Butler deep, dropped, good throw.
- Sacked by Spicer.
- Complete to Travon Patterson.

Corp
- Incomplete to Anthony McCoy.
- Incomplete to Patterson, flag for offsides.
- Complete to Cooper Stephenson.
- Incomplete to Carswell, dropped.
- Flag offsides on Spicer.

Barkley
- Scramble.
- Incomplete to Patterson.
- Incomplete to Carswell, dropped.
- Complete to Williams, takes a big hit.
- Complete to Jordan Cameron, also takes a hit.

Mustain
- Incomplete to Butler.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson.

Corp
- Handoff to Tyler, nice gain.
- Complete to D.J. Shoemate.
- Handoff to McNeal, nice run.
- Complete to Williams.

Barkley
- Complete to Tyler, swing pass.
- Complete to Rhett Ellison.
- Sacked by Malik Jackson.

Mustain
- Handoff to Tyler.
- Complete to McNeal.
- Handoff to McNeal.

Corp
- Flag offsides on Everson Griffen.
- Complete to Ellison, good second effort.
- False start on Charles Brown.
- Complete to Carswell.
- Handoff to McNeal.
- Complete to Williams.
- Scramble, big gain on bootleg.

Barkley
- Complete to Butler deep, touchdown.
- Complete to Patterson.
- Complete to Ronald Johnson, great catch away from body.
- Complete to McNeal.
- Handoff to Tyler.
- Handoff to Ronald Johnson, end around.

Extra Points

• Linebacker Michael Morgan had a "great spring" come to an end Tuesday when he suffered a high right ankle sprain in nine-on-seven drills, Carroll said.

Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight weren't at practice on Thursday, missing the day to tend to academic matters. Carroll said both will be back with the team for the Trojan Huddle Saturday.

• The defense utilized a lot of four-man rushes during Thursday's practice, and Carroll said Averell Spicer stood out. Spicer had a big day getting to the quarterback, recording a pair of early sacks.

• Jurrell Casey may have quietly moved past incumbent starter Christian Tupou at nose tackle.

"We could start with either one of those guys, but the first guy to go in right now is Jurrell," Carroll said.

Tupou has been a little banged up, and will be fighting off some injuries during Saturday's Trojan Huddle.

• Carroll said followers of his program haven't seen him run a quarterback bootleg like the one the Trojans ran late during 11-on-11 drills with Corp.

"That wasn't a Booty call, for sure," he said.


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