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April 12, 2008Aaron Corp is the proverbial 'man in the middle' for the University of Southern California football team. As a redshirt freshman, Corp spent last season learning all he could about playing quarterback for, arguably, the nation's premier college football team.
This year, as he battles for playing time during spring practice, he is competing against Mark Sanchez and Mitch Mustain - two quarterbacks with significant starting experience. Heck, even Corp's theoretical replacement, top 2009 prospect Matt Barkley, has been hanging out watching practice.
"It's fine, I can only control what I do," Corp said with a hint of a laugh about his situation. "There's going to be competition no matter what and I'm confident in my abilities to go out there and make plays. I think that's all I can really ask of myself."
As California's 'Mr. Football', the Trojans were certainly not Corp's only option coming out of high school; in fact the dual threat QB had an offer from just about every major program on the West Coast.
"This is, as far as on-field competition, as cut-throat as it gets," Corp said about knowing what he signed up for. "Off the field we're all cool with one another, but out here it's a matter of doing things the right way, all the time."
Sanchez, knowing that he would eventually battle Corp for playing time, helped Corp adjust to the rigors of Division-I college football.
"It all started with Mark last year. He took me under his wing a little bit, showing me the offense and around school," Corp said. "So we became pretty good friends through that. And Mitch is such a nice guy that he's hard not to like.
"The competition is just a matter of being competitors on the field, not that we have a thing out for one another. It's just the way we are."
Corp has also had a direct influence on the way that quarterbacks coach Steve Sarkisian utilizes the group.
"Sark always mentions that we're athletic as a group," Corp, diplomatically avoiding taking any credit, said. "So he's always saying that if it's (Two-Deep Man Coverage) we can take off and run for the first down, it will make us all the more effective."
In turn, Corp, with the help of Sarkisian, has taken a page from Sanchez and Mustain - two quarterbacks with "laser-rocket arms," to quote Peyton Manning.
"It's not so much my delivery, but it's the way that I use my shoulders and my hips to create a little bit more force on the ball," Corp said. "It was difficult the first week, but it's not anymore and it's starting to feel natural.
"I didn't have a strong arm to begin with, so anything that I can get helps."
At the very least Corp has earned himself some playing time during the 'mop-up duties' at the end of blow-outs because of his play this spring. The most? Only the coaching staff knows that.
This Saturday's scrimmage should provide a clearer picture of where he is compared to Sanchez and Mustain, as Corp will get plenty of reps with the first string offense. Until now he has done most of his work with the second string.
"They're a young group," he said of the offensive line. "One kid is Matt Meyer and it's his first semester in college, graduating early from high school. Michael Reardon has never played center before, and they've got him out there figuring it out.
"It's just a learning curve to catch up to."
Like all Trojan football players, Corp is nothing if not resourceful.
"If it allows me to move around a little bit more and use my legs to make plays then that's what I'll do.
"It's what I do best."