Q&A with Matt Leinart

Matt Leinart emerged from a spring ball battle at the top of the quarterback depth chart as the Trojans look to find a new signal-caller for the first time in years. The sophomore from Mater Dei sat down with WeAreSC to give us a breakdown of his quarterback traits, talk about summer throwing sessions and his mindset heading into the fall. Click below for the interview...

There was a moment at the end of spring ball when the coaches told you about your move to the top of the depth chart.  Talk about that conversation.


"I was in Heritage Hall and Coach Chow called me up to his office.  I hadn't had a very good practice so I thought I was gonna get yelled at or whatever but I come in his office and Coach Carroll is in there.  He sat me down and we were just talking and that's when he said "We think you've been the most consistent and we're going to start you in the scrimmage.  You're our guy right now so just go out there and keep working hard".  He was telling me I don't have to go out there and do anything great like Carson did, just go out there and be efficient and stuff.  It was definitely a good conversation."


You've started summer throwing drills, how are those going?


"Yeah, we're throwing three days a week, getting the guys out there.  It's good because it kind of gives us a rhythm going into training camp.  Everyone looks real good, all the DB's are out there and we're gonna start 7 on 7 this week.  It's going well, I expect a lot of big things from us this year, offensively especially."


How important are these summer sessions for you?


"I think they're real key.  This summer is key for me getting my timing down with the receivers because I haven't had a chance to throw as much to these receivers in the past.  Plus getting my arm strength up and my footwork and just reading our defense is great because our defense is amazing so it's very good work for me getting out there."


Let's talk about your traits as a quarterback.  Arm strength.


"I think people don't give me a lot of credit for my arm strength but I have more than people think I do and I just haven't used it to the best of my abilities in the past couple years.  I think the spring was the first time I showed that I have a strong enough arm to get it done plus it's only going to get stronger over the next 2-3 years so I don't think that's really an issue anymore."


Running ability.


"I'll say the quarterback in our system doesn't have to be a big runner (smiling). You know, it's not my strong point but I think I'm good enough to get out of the pocket and make people miss in the pocket and that's all I have to do, I've been doing that my whole life so I'm not really worried about that."


Leadership style.


"I'm more of a lead by example.  I'm not really a "rah-rah" kind to yell at you, scream at you.  I just kind of set the example.  I'll get in your face once in a while but I just go out there and make plays and hopefully people can just follow that lead."




"I think it's real important.  You don't want your quarterback to be a sissy, you know, he's got to take hits, he's got to be the leader of the team, he controls everything.  I think toughness, mental toughness, physical toughness, it's all part of being a quarterback."


You were known in HS as a "savvy" player who performed well in clutch situations.


"I think it just came natural for me.  To have poise, people have it and people don't and I think I was just blessed with that gift I guess.  I think everything just comes natural to be reading defenses out there under pressure situations."


What is your mindset heading into the fall?


"I plan on starting against Auburn and that's my mindset going into the season.  I know nothing's for sure and it's open competition but I think it's my job to lose.  Running out there is gonna be probably the biggest thrill of my life, I can't wait.  It's gonna be exciting and I'm gonna be nervous with all those feelings and emotions but once it gets down to it it's just going to be another game."


There is a lot of talent on offense this year.  Have the coaches talked to you about the role for the quarterback?


"Yeah, this year we have so many good receivers and so many running backs who are going to be good and our O-line is one of the best in the country so they told me I don't have to go out there and make spectacular plays and be a hero every game.  Just go out there, be efficient, move the ball and put points on the board because I think our defense is gonna score points for us this year too."


What did you learn from Carson Palmer?


"I learned a lot.  I think just his overall presence, I just watched how he carried himself with everything with all the bad times and then all the good times.  Football-wise it was the basics like throwing and reading defenses and just how to play the game.  He was a big part and I'm gonna miss him out there but we gotta move on."


What makes you a good fit for the Norm Chow offense?


"I think I'm more of a throwing quarterback and I've been in a similar system at Mater Dei where it was a short passing game throwing the ball all over the field.  I think that and the fact that I showed the most consistency in spring.  I think he likes those big quarterbacks who can see over the line and just complete the passes.  It's just passing efficiency.   I've also been in Coach Chow's offense for a while, this is my third year now so I'm grasping the offense and it's getting easier by the year.   I think that's why I did so well in spring is because I'm finally starting to get the system down."


Talk about Pete Carroll.


"He's awesome, he's amazing.  I love that guy.  He's the best thing that's happened to SC in a long time.  He such a motivational coach and a players coach and that's why everyone loves him.  I couldn't imagine playing for a different guy.  I think he's great and we're gonna bring winning seasons year in and year out as long as he's here."


You played for another motivational coach in high school.  How are they similar?


"Coach Rollinson was probably the biggest motivator I've ever been around with the way he speaks and his voice.  I think there are a lot of similarities between him and Coach Carroll because they're both motivational guys, players coaches, they love to win and they're competitive.  I think that helps me cause I'm kind of used to that kind of guy."


Give us quick thoughts on some teammates.  Hershel Dennis.


"Explosive.  I think he's gonna have a big year because he's kind of a sleeper guy.  I expect a lot of big things from him.  He's got speed, he's gotten a lot bigger, a lot stronger.  I'm really excited to see how he plays this year."


Alex Holmes.


"He's the senior leader.  He's been in the system, he's been a starter for three years, he's a big key for our offense.  Great hands, big, physical, tough to bring down."


Offensive line.


"The offensive line is going to be the best we've had in a long time.  They're all very mature and experienced and I think they'll be the strength of our offense."


Mike Williams.


"Mike Williams is a freak.  He's an amazing talent.  He's big, he's fast and I'm sure he's going to have an even bigger year this year than he did last year."


Keary Colbert.


"Keary is awesome.  I can't say enough about him.  Great hands, great feet, great route runner. He's a four year starter and he's got a chance to break the career record, I know he's not thinking about that, but he's the best all-around receiver."

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