Even though conference expansion/implosion is the topic du jour, USC’s sanctions any other week of the year would be the main focus of media and college football blogs alike. As has been widely reported elsewhere, USC Trojan underclassmen are beginning to resemble rats on a sinking ship, looking to flee a crippling 2 year bowl postseason ban handed down by the NCAA. While UGA is in the running to land former AJC Super 11 Jarvis Jones and Florida/Alabama are purportedly committing recruiting infractions in pursuit of USC RB Dillon Baxter, we have yet to hear any rumblings on transfers from any of the upperclassmen of Troy.
NCAA bylaws directly allow players who would otherwise be barred from postseason bowls for the rest of their collegiate career to transfer without sitting out a year. One particular Trojan who squarely falls in this group and is well-known by SEC fans happens to be Mitch Mustain, formerly of Springdale, Arkansas and the one-time Razorback starting quarterback.
Coming out of high school, Mustain was named the 2005 Parade All-American Player of the Year, 2005-06 Gatorade National Player of the Year and the 2005 USA Today National Player of the Year.After following his high school coach, Gus Malzahn, to Arkansas, he transferred to USC after being benched mid-season (with an 8-0 record) and followed out of Fayetteville high school teammate Damian Williams and Malzahn in pursuit of a more pass-oriented offense.
Mustain is currently buried on the USC depth chart, having made only 16 passing attempts in his 2 seasons as backup QB, is stuck behind returning sophomore Matt Barkley and could also potentially fall behind the newest incoming prep QB All-American, Jesse Scroggins. Mustain might mentally be planning on following USC alum Matt Cassel‘s roadmap from perennial benchwarmer to NFL starting QB, but that road is haphazard and much less attractive without Pete Carroll donning the headset in the Coliseum this fall.
While Mustain’s official position thus far in the sanctions upheaval is that he has no plans to leave, there are several teams who desperately could use a QB. For obvious reasons (see Nutt, Houston), Ole Miss has to immediately be dismissed as a candidate, as well as any Pac 1X members, given the inter-conference transfer restriction rules, sanctions or not.
UNC, Tennessee and a darkhorse Auburn are among several viable destinations should Mustain decide on pursuing a transfer for his final year of eligibility. UNC is projected in the top 25 in multiple preseason magazines but is held back mainly by their offense (Phil Steele even predicts that QB TJ Yates, a 3 year starter, could lose his starting roll to a redshirt freshman); up in Knoxville, beyond the joy that UT fans would get from the coup of stealing a player from the Kiffster, the cupboards are relatively bare, with recent JUCO transfer Matt Sims the only serious candidate for playing time at QB behind a patchwork O-Line. Auburn could be attractive for Mustain, given the familiarity of HS Coach Gus Malzahn’s offense, and Mustain could be only one stolen laptop away from serious playing time.
While USC is currently appealing the sanctions, it may be a bit of an uphill battle to get the sanctions overturned. It is possible that USC upperclassmen being in play to transfer this year could be a moot point, as the waters are still murky as to whether the NCAA will allow a USC upperclassman to transfer out during the ongoing appeals process. A comparable sanction/appeal timeline should approximate Alabama’s recent appeals process, which ran roughly 9 months. I would imagine that the NCAA would ultimately come down on the side of the student-athlete in this instance, allowing players to transfer during any ongoing appeals, given the institutional actions that led to this transfer window opening in the first place.
While the conference musical chair game will continue to garner the most press attention, expect to see a slow trickle of transfers and decommitments throughout the summer, as USC prepares to lose 10 scholarships a year for 3 years. Hopefully UGA will be able to bring Jarvis Jones back home to Georgia, as well as plucking a few extra recruits away from USC’s top 5 2011 recruiting class.