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September 1, 2009Pete Carroll seems like he knows something the general public doesn't.
As people around the country scratched their heads when Carroll named Matt Barkley USC's starting quarterback, he didn't flinch.
He's heard the questions, with a barrage coming at his weekly luncheon Tuesday, and he's answered the same way.
He's concerned, sure. But it's not because Barkley's a freshman - it's just because he's new to the role.
In fact, the decision to name Barkley the No. 1 quarterback wasn't even that difficult.
"I really, whether it's challenged or it's unusual, like this decision," he said.
For the first time in USC history, the Trojans will snap the ball to a true freshman at the start of a season opener, and while it might seem like a big risk, Carroll's not buying that.
Like a blackjack player who knows how many face cards have been played, Carroll's confident he won't bust betting on Barkley.
"I don't see this as a gamble," Carroll said. "Under the circumstances, I see this as a really solid decision, and I'm fired up to see it work out."
The circumstances are simple: Aaron Corp got hurt and lost reps. Matt Barkley got those reps and more, and he ran with it.
"What was the choice right here? We had a chance to look Matt and Aaron in the spring time, and Aaron was a little bit ahead for all of the obvious reasons. He'd been in the program; he'd been around. He was more comfortable with the terminology," Carroll said. "We weren't even able to allow Matt to handle all the terminology in spring football because we didn't want to burden him. But as he picked up his stuff and got ready to go in camp and with the opportunity given to him, he just championed this golden opportunity and did great.
"He won the job."
And perhaps just as important as Carroll's confidence in Barkley is the confidence other players like Stafon Johnson and Brice Butler have in USC's No. 1.
"I feel like he's the type of guy that's ready for this stuff," Butler said. "When Corp went down, I pretty much figured it out."
Butler said he even thought the coaches would maybe turn to Mitch Mustain when Corp was injured, but Barkley commanded the offense and deserved the extra chances to become the Trojans' starter.
"I don't have a problem with it all," Butler said.
Johnson, one of the strongest veteran voices on the USC offense said he doesn't even think of Barkley as being a freshman after seeing the first-year quarterback work since spring.
"Mentally and physically, he's not a freshman quarterback," Johnson said. "He's a great player. He's mentally ready. He knows the offense as much as he could. He's a big guy, and he's got his mental game right.
"He's nowhere near a freshman quarterback. He's way ahead of the curve."
Inside the USC family, there aren't concerns coming out. Really, that's all that matters.