It was thought earlier in the week that USC would have Dillon Baxter available for this weekend’s game against Notre Dame. That’s turned out to be the case.
When it comes to the Trojans’ starting quarterback, however, it appears “unavailable” will be the word of the day.
Baxter was ineligible for last weekend’s game against Oregon State after accepting a ride in a golf cart from a person who turned out to be an agent. The NCAA reinstated Baxter Wednesday after the running back repaid the estimated value of the ride — $5 — to a local charity.
The talented freshman has had his fair share of run-ins with the program since lighting it up in spring practice earlier this year, and, while Lane Kiffin seemingly absolved Baxter of blame for the innocuous golf-cart incident, the head coach said the back needs to make better decisions given the slim margin for off-field error he’s left himself.
“The hope is that he continues to grow and mature,” said Kiffin. “He’s still very young, a true freshman. He needs to just make better decisions even though a lot of you can look at this one (golf-cart incident) as something that can happen to anybody and something where he wasn’t necessarily in the wrong. It doesn’t matter. He has already put himself in a position where there isn’t room for error and for any poor judgment.”
While Baxter will be available for the Notre Dame game Saturday, the same can’t be said with any degree of certainty of Matt Barkley.
Barkley is suffering from a high left ankle sprain and has not practiced at all this week. The sophomore attended his first session of the week Wednesday and was walking without the aid of crutches for the first time since suffering the injury. Proclaiming himself as more than 50-percent healthy three days ahead of the game, Barkley was still holding out hope that he will be able to play against the Irish.
“That’s what my mind is thinking,” Barkley said when asked if he thought it was realistic he would play. “That’s the positive thinking that I think you have to have. If it doesn’t happen, so be it.”
If Barkley is unable to go, and all of the signs are indeed pointing in that direction, Mitch Mustain would get the call under center for the Trojans. It would be Mustain’s first start since transferring from Arkansas to USC after the 1927* season.
“I’ve been waiting for this day to come,” Mustain said.
(*we kid; it was after the 1978** season)
(**OK, it was after the 2006 season, but you get the point)