Matt Barkley never has experienced a spring like this at USC.
As a freshman, the quarterback from Mater Dei High was determined to make a big first impression as a longshot for the starting job he eventually claimed. As a sophomore, he emerged as the Trojans' on-field leader under a new coaching staff. As a junior, he ramped up his game in advance of a breakout season.
As a senior? Let's just say Barkley's spring has been relatively uneventful. When approached by a reporter Tuesday, Barkley joked: "Been awhile, huh?" It had. He made it through all of last week without doing any group interviews.
It's all by design, and Barkley is OK with it. While USC's starting quarterback is a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, his backups remain unproven. So Cody Kessler and Max Wittek are getting the bulk of the reps while Barkley watches and passes on pointers.
"Definitely different than the past," Barkley said. "I'm doing a lot more coaching in a sense, to get them up to speed. ... Which is fine. I'm happy.
Despite taking fewer snaps, Barkley still is getting something out of this spring camp. He believes "teaching is the best way to learn," and having to wait his turn has made him more patient.
Both Kessler and Wittek said before camp they appreciate the opportunity to learn from Barkley, who, according to Kessler, "knows everything there is to know about this offense."
Kessler and Wittek have made strides in that area as well.
"They've been able to handle a lot more on their own this year as opposed to last year," Barkley said. "They've both grown in tremendous ways."
Neither Kessler nor Wittek has pulled ahead of the other at this point, according to USC coach Lane Kiffin. Kiffin said he doesn't have a timetable to decide on a backup quarterback.
"If it unfolds itself and somebody really creates a separation, then we make it," Kiffin said. "If there's not, there's no reason to right now because we want to continue to develop both of them."