Who Gets the Nod to Lead the 2008 Trojans?
Let's start this analysis by saying one thing: All three of these quarterbacks could start for the Trojans and get the job done. Mark Sanchez, Mitch Mustain or Aaron Corp. Truth be told each could start for most any other team in the country.
Their histories read like a who's who of high school quarterbacks. Each has a storied and impressive background; each will be a contributor and have the tools to succeed at the college level.
Each quarterback is competitive and wants the starting job. Yet, they have the utmost respect for their fellow teammates.
Mark Sanchez simply has the inside track on the starting role for the Trojans in 2008. With three years under his belt, Sanchez has the most familiarity with the program. Coming out of high school in 2004 with high expectations, Sanchez was a consensus All-American and Super Prep and Parade Magazine Player of the year. He prepped at Mission Viejo High School.
Pros: Besides his high school All-American accolades, Sanchez has spent the last three years learning the Trojan system. Likewise, coaches have gotten to know his talents, abilities, strengths and weaknesses in these three years. Sanchez also has the advantage of having started three games in 2007, while John David Booty recovered from a broken finger. Sanchez has a record of 2-1 in his three starts for the Trojans in 2007.
Cons: Listed at 6'4" in USC media, Sanchez is probably closer to 6'3, just a tad short of a prototypical professional quarterback. Sanchez is characterized as a ‘gunslinger' by coach Pete Carroll, at times, Sanchez plays emotional, and it would be best for him to keep his emotions in check.
Projection: In addition to his familiarity with the program, Sanchez took a big stride in off-season workouts, establishing himself as the team leader through unsupervised practices. Sanchez has displayed he is ready to lead this Trojan team in 2008. Barring an unforeseen surge by back-up quarterbacks, Mark Sanchez should win the starting position without too much trouble.
Mitch Mustain arrived at USC last fall like a gift, courtesy of the Arkansas Razorbacks. As a freshman in 2006, Mustain led Arkansas to eight wins and no losses as a starter. That Razorback team was wrought with controversy and dissention, leading one coach to leave and players to transfer from the program.
Shortly before Mustain transferred to USC, teammate Damian Williams transferred to USC. Both sat out (red-shirted) the 2007 season per NCAA rules, and both are ready and willing to contribute in 2008.
Mustain was also a consensus All-American, graduating from Springdale High School, Arkansas. He was named Gatorade, USA Today and Parade Magazine player of the year in 2005.
Pros: Mitch Mustain knows how to win, from junior high school to present, Mustain has racked-up a 61-2 record when starting in games. He is undefeated in college (8-0). Mustain has the confidence and football-knowledge to be an excellent player at the college level. He tore-up the field last year on the service team, while sitting out the season.
Cons: Listed at 6'3" he is also just slightly undersized, for the pro game but should have no problems at USC. After sitting out a year, he could get frustrated playing in back of Sanchez for the next two years. Watching Mustain on the practice field, there are just few faults to take note of, the most significant, having less knowledge of the system than Sanchez.
Projection: By his own admission, Mustain is behind the curve in understanding the system as well as Sanchez does. Mustain should be a very able back up to Sanchez, but will be able to step right in, should Sanchez not be available for a game. Mustain will seriously challenge Sanchez for the starting position, but unless he achieves some super-human feats, will be a back-up quarterback in 2008.
The third quarterback of the USC triumvirate is Aaron Corp. Hailing from Orange Lutheran High School (California); Corp is another consensus high school All-American. He graduated from high school in 2006 and his All-American honors included: Parade All-American, EA Sports All-American first team, Super Prep All-American and Prep Star All-American. A true freshman in 2007, Mustain backed-up John David Booty and Sanchez.
Pros: Corp is the most agile of USC's quarterbacks. While Sanchez and Mustain are mobile enough, Corp is a dual-threat quarterback. As a senior in high school, Corp threw for 2750 yards and 21 touchdowns and ran for 1,197 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Cons: The biggest handicap for Corp is his lack of experience at the college level. Both Sanchez and Mustain have displayed their ability to play at this level. Corp has yet to prove his college ability and as the youngest quarterback on the roster, still has a bit to learn about the USC system.
Projection: Barring unforeseen circumstances this year, Corp is destined to be the number three quarterback in the rotation. He is gifted enough and would add a dimension to the USC offense not seen around Troy since Rodney Peete ran the field as a quarterback. If needed, Corp could lead the Trojans quite successfully.
While not exactly revelation, Mark Sanchez should win the starting position for USC as early as the end of Spring Camp. He has the inside track and there is no reason to believe he will not get the call. Mitch Mustain will compete with Sanchez and will dazzle on-lookers, but given his experience, Sanchez will be the starter. He'll be looking over his shoulders at Mustain and Corp breathing down each side of his neck.