2005 Quarterback preview

What more can be said about Matt Leinart that hasn't been discussed 1,000 times during this off-season. Yes, he turned down a lot of money by choosing to stay in college instead of leaving early for the NFL but how often do you have a chance to accomplish something as special as going for a third straight national title and back-to-back Heisman Trophies?

His nagging injuries were definitely a factor in his decision, the ligament damage in his elbow was particularly bothersome, and it's certainly possible his new relationship with women's basketball player Brynn Cameron played a role. Whatever the reasons, Trojan fans are ecstatic that Matt will be lining up for one more year in Cardinal and Gold.

Matt comes back for his senior season as polished as any player in the nation. His leadership skills are off the charts, especially after choosing to come back with his teammates this year instead of bolting for the league. He has steadily worked his arm back into shape this summer to the point where his receivers are making note of the fact that he has more zip on his throws. His understanding of defenses has improved as the coaches had him studying film of NFL defenses last spring in an effort to speed up his learning process. At one point in spring ball Leinart called audibles for John David Booty while Carroll mixed up the defensive coverages in an effort to confuse him. The result? Leinart was eight for eight with calling the correct play. That kind of knowledge of the offense should help the transition with new offensive coordinators Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian as Matt can bring a wealth of experience to the game planning and game day adjustments.

He is the very definition of the BMOC these days but when you see Leinart walking around Heritage Hall in his slow, easy gait you quickly understand that he is taking all the attention in stride. The Trojans have been blessed with two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks in a row and both of them are as level-headed as they come. There may be some athletes who succumb to the pressure of what is at stake this season but have no fear of that happening with Leinart.

Not only do the Trojans feature the best quarterback in the country but we also have the best reserve and the best incoming freshman. John David Booty showed this spring that he is more than capable of stepping into the glamour role of USC quarterback and guiding the offense without missing a beat. John David has the confidence to make all the throws and his strong arm allows him to succeed at a high level. Carroll has said many times that Booty will get extended reps this year as he continues his audition for the starting spot in 2006. Arriving on campus this summer was Mark Sanchez, a complete package who has impressed his teammates so far with his play and attitude. Sanchez will likely redshirt this season, barring unforeseen circumstances, yet he is still actively watching film and studying at the hip of Leinart to learn what it takes to be the USC quarterback. The presence of Booty and Sanchez was enough to help convince Rocky Hinds, a darn fine quarterback in his own right, to take his game elsewhere this summer.

One bit of off-season news came when Mike McDonald was offered a scholarship. McDonald, a former walk-on who is the son of former USC QB Paul, was not going to play football after last season but he came out for spring ball at the request of the coaches. He showed at the Trojan Huddle that he definitely has the ability to lead this football team, even if he doesn't have some of the same physical gifts of our other quarterbacks.

Projected Depth Chart

Leinart – Booty

2005 Quarterback roster

#6 Mark Sanchez 6-4, 215 FR
#10 John David Booty 6-3, 195 SO
#11 Matt Leinart 6-5, 217 SR
#13 Tom Harwood 6-3, 170 SO
#16 Mike McDonald 6-1, 185 SO

Returning Stat Leaders

Leinart 269-412 (65.3%) for 3,322 yards with 33 TD's and 6 picks


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