Near the end of USC's morning practice Tuesday, junior quarterback Matt Barkley snapped at a receiver who ran the wrong route during team drills and forced him to throw an incompletion.
The receiver appeared to be his cousin, walk-on Robbie Boyer. But the moment still signified quite a bit for the normally mild-mannered Barkley, who delivered the scolding on Howard Jones Field as soon as the play was whistled dead.
In short, USC's star signal-caller is frustrated. The reasons could include a lack of depth in the USC receiving corps, the lack of depth and health in the USC offensive line and Barkley's own performance this spring, during which he's been solid but unspectacular.
"It's just frustrating because you think things should be going a certain way, and I'm at the point now where I know what's going on and I know my reads, but when someone else messes up it kinda throws me off.
"But it's important to keep your cool and realize that these are young guys and you have to kind of coach them at the same time, and I was probably the same way when I was younger like that, too."
USC's young receivers and tight ends have dropped a number of passes and accurate route-running also appearing to be an issue at times. But there have also been several self-made interceptions from Barkley. Take Tuesday for example, when sophomore Nickell Robey read his eyes down the right sideline and jumped in front of the corresponding pass.
The junior quarterback said he thought it was important to address players' mistakes immediately.
"If it's happening more than once, then something's wrong," he said. "He's not getting the play and he's not learning it. If it needs to be corrected, then you need to try to address it at soon as possible."
Barkley added: "We've gone over the same plays this whole spring and guys aren't doing the right thing. If one guy doesn't do it, it makes everybody else look bad."
In talking about his role as a leader, Barkley said: "That's also the beautiful thing about football, it takes 11 guys to do the perfect thing to make a play work. But I think the great players are the ones who, if one player messes up, you can make it right and adapt and try to adjust something."
Trojans coach Lane Kiffin was asked about Barkley's display of frustration. He backed up his quarterback while leaving some room for improvement in the on-field leadership category.
"What happens is, when guys get frustrated, whether it’s because of them playing poorly, the players around them playing poorly or the score at that time, guys tend to make more errors," Kiffin said. "That’s what you have to fight through. He’s had an issue with that since he’s been here.
"It’s something we think we improved on last year, and hopefully we’ll improve on it in Year 3. When things go better, you make less mistakes."