One of Coach Pete Carroll's many mantras is: "There's a weekly competition for every spot on the roster." Don't look now but the competition for the starting quarterback spot is underway. How this pans out will be very interesting, indeed.
Sanchez Fairs Well in His Debut
Mark Sanchez gets a 'W' in his first game as a starting quarterback. Not miraculous numbers and nothing on the surface says Sanchez should replace Booty. Sanchez was 19 of 31 with 2 picks and a touchdown. The Trojans won 20-13. Sanchez struggled, throwing two interceptions in the first half, but impressed when it counted - at the end of the game. He scrambled for a first down deep in the red zone, which allowed the Trojans to up the score to 20 points, and more importantly, keep the ball and burn some clock time. Sanchez led the struggling Trojans admirably in victory.
Nothing to Get Excited About, Is There?
Right about now, it's tough to be John David Booty. Coaches, players and fans alike have very high standards for the football team. The low murmurs and mumblings are that this team has underachieved. The finger gets pointed to the quarterback and the coaches. Fair or not, that is the way things go.
Objectively, one could say, Booty deserves the number one spot on the roster. He has led this team to victories for the last year and a half. In that time, the Trojans are 16-3. That should get it done for anyone, right? Not at USC. The "3" in the loss column smarts, one loss coming from an underachieving cross-town rival which knocked the Trojans out of national championship contention. The other two losses were against lesser opponents.
For the last three games the Trojans have looked average. Unfortunately, much of the blame for that goes to Booty. Even when Sanchez led the team to a less than impressive 20-13 victory over a 2-5 Arizona Wildcat team, Sanchez was looked upon as a hero. Booty, ever the scapegoat.
Booty says he understands the scrutiny. After watching his quarterback brothers struggle with the criticism that comes with being leaders, he knows the blame always falls on the quarterback.
Giving Booty a Fair Shake
16-3 is a very good record. And Booty is an accurate passer. For his career, he is close to 63% completion with a low interception rate. But for this year, close will not do. Nothing less than a shot at the national title would satisfy the Trojan faithful. How quickly they forget, just a few short years ago, Trojans were happy to be in any bowl game, and national titles were not thought of as an achievable goal. After incredible runs by Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart led teams, one loss per season is all the masses will accept.
It's not fair, but that is the path Booty chose to travel. He knew coming to USC that much would be expected of him. And much is expected, indeed.
In all likelihood, neither Booty nor Sanchez will lead these Trojans to New Orleans this year. But the expectations are still there.
The Intangibles, It's Always the Intangibles
Which intangible is most important? Booty has precision accuracy and years of experience. His work ethic is impeccable. Booty's leadership skills should speak for itself; the team voted him captain for the last two years. He was voted captain last year without ever having started a game. So teammates respect his abilities. Booty leads by example, and is emotionally levelheaded; he doesn't get too excited and keeps an even keel. In interviews Booty says, he tries not to get too high when they win nor too low if the team loses.
Time for a change? The personality styles between the two quarterbacks could not be more different. Sanchez is a highly emotional player. He lets his excitement show during the game and practices. He leads by direction. The Trojans have been sluggish and mistake ridden this season. As Sanchez started his first game, he showed his emotions after touchdowns, running up to teammates as they scored. Sanchez is an exciting emotional player. But does this translate to success on the field? Only time can answer that. Booty after all has been successful. Sanchez is a long way from proving his worth.
Immediate Answers and Notre Dame on the Horizon
After Monday's practice, Booty said he will wear a glove and be ready to practice on Tuesday. He fully expects to play, if not start on Saturday.
Coach Carroll is a little more conservative with his prognosis. He says Booty has a broken finger and it takes time to heal. He doesn't think Booty will be ready by Saturday.
Sanchez? He's happy to contribute and would love a second chance on Saturday against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.