Punting helped elevate Mustain

USC quarterback Mitch Mustain apparently just needed a few kicks to move up the depth chart.

Mustain, now the Trojans’ No. 2 quarterback behind Matt Barkley, said Tuesday that his recent stint working as a punter helped him focus and perform better at his primary position. “Actually having something to do that was at least halfway constructive helped a lot,” he said.

Mustain is clearly buoyed by his elevated status, which was evident last week when he took most of the second-team snaps during the Trojans’ off week.

The junior, who started eight games for Arkansas in 2006, said it was a “huge boost” in morale to be No. 2 instead of No. 3. “One play away is not a huge margin,” he said of being the backup. “Two plays is pretty big. That’s extremely rare for two quarterbacks to go down in the same game.”


Coach Pete Carroll attributed Mustain’s push past Aaron Corp to improved arm strength and accuracy.

“Mitch is throwing the ball better right now,” he said.

Meantime, Corp is dealing with a slide that has seen him fall from starter at the beginning of training camp to No. 3.

Corp said he was not happy with his status, which was relayed to him on Monday.

“I’m not going to say what I thought,” he said. “But it is what it is.”

Corp’s season has included several painful turns.

He suffered a leg injury early in training camp that enabled Barkley to become the starter.

After Barkley suffered a shoulder injury against Ohio State, Corp started against Washington but struggled in the Trojans’ loss at Seattle.

Asked by a reporter if he considered the Washington game a wasted opportunity, Corp said, “When you look back at it, definitely. I was given a shot and I didn’t perform well.”

Corp said he would work to improve in practice with the hope that better play might help him unseat Mustain.

Johnson going home

Tailback Stafon Johnson, who is recovering from throat surgery, is scheduled to be released from the hospital today, USC announced.

Johnson was injured during a weightlifting workout on Sept. 28 when a bar carrying 275 pounds slipped from his hand and fell on his throat.

“There is still a process for all of the recovery of all the intricacies here, but he’s going to be out and about and all of that, so we’re thrilled for him,” Carroll said.

When the Trojans play Notre Dame, USC players will wear stickers on their helmets that read “STA FIGHT ON” over the No. 13.

Slip and slide

The Trojans clearly enjoyed practicing in the rain, which might help them if they play in wet conditions at South Bend, Ind. The workout concluded with defensive line coach Jethro Franklin defeating offensive line coach Pat Ruel in a contest to see who could travel farther after running and taking head-first slides through a long puddle on the sodden turf.

Quick hits

Armond Armstead, a projected starter at defensive end before suffering a broken bone in his foot during training camp, is working at defensive tackle to alleviate depth problems. . . . Defensive end Nick Perry (knee) returned to practice. . . . Linebacker Malcolm Smith, who sat out the Washington State and California games because of an ankle sprain, is taking first-team reps.