Talking Football with Mark Sanchez

The start of the 2008 college football season is right around the corner, and just like all the diehard fans, USC quarterback Mark Sanchez can't wait for the opening kickoff. Kevin Carden recently caught up with the gunslinger to talk about the upcoming season, his new role and much more.

Q: How has the offseason been for you?

A: It is going well. Camp is right around the corner now but it has been a great offseason with Coach Carlisle and his staff. We have been working out very hard and we implemented some new stretches to limit our injuries and keep us flexible. I think we are in great shape from our conditioning workouts and the team looks good. Team morale is high and we are excited to start camp.

Q: How different is your mindset now that you are entering the season as the starting quarterback?

A: I am just a little more relaxed, especially after playing a couple of games last year. I feel pretty confident in my ability to lead this team. This entire offseason knowing that I am the starter has really helped with our workouts. It's a sigh of relief but I have to keep competing with the other quarterbacks and against the defense to keep that spot.

Mark Sanchez
Q: Talk about what you have learned playing behind quarterbacks like Matt Leinart and John David Booty?

A: Carson (Palmer), Matt (Leinart) and John David (Booty) were all great in their preparation phase for the season and for the games. They would never leave anything to chance. They wanted to ensure that they were as ready as possible, and so I learned how to watch film from those guys. I was down at the Elite 11 Camp this week and Carson was down there still doing the same drills as us. You see a guy like that, humble enough to make it to workouts there and throw. He was throwing to high school receivers but was still working on accuracy. They are great predecessors and I am excited to be mentioned in the same sentence and I also want to make my own mark.

Q: You started in three games last season, how comforting is it for you having that experience as a starter?

A: More than anything, it is comforting and reassuring. It reaffirmed my love for this game, this team and this program. As soon as each game was over I couldn't wait to play again. It seemed like the fastest three weeks of my life and I can't wait to get it back this season.

Q: The wide receivers struggled at times last season. Can you talk about their progress this offseason and some players that you think are ready to step up in '08?

A: Their preparation this summer has been outstanding. They have been working as hard if not harder than any other position group on the team. Guys like Patrick Turner really anchor that group and he is looking for his big breakout year. I think he is going to have a great one. New guys like Damian Williams and the freshman Brice Butler and even at tight end, Blake Ayles is doing really well. Travon Patterson, Vidal Hazelton, David Ausberry, all of those guys are playing really well right now. I have a ton of weapons at my disposal and I can't wait. I just want to get the ball out of my hands.

Q: You guys have a lot of talent returning at the skill positions. What are your expectations for the offense in 2008?

Mark Sanchez fires the pass.
A: I think it's going to be another explosive year. With our talent level, the sky is the limit. We have guys that catch and guys that can run so it's about me making the right decisions and those guys making plays with the ball in their hands. It's going to be a fun year for us and should be some big-time numbers.

Q: Can you talk about the culture of success that Pete Carroll has created here at USC?

A: It's really a testament to Coach Carroll and his staff. He is a great coach, and all great coaches have other great coaches around them. Offensive coordinators like Norm Chow, Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian all have been successful with our talent, and this year will be no different. They will put us in the right positions and it is up to us to make the plays. If you are at the quarterback spot here be ready to have a lot of responsibility, but when things work out it is going to look very good and could set you up for life.

Q: You guys open the season at Virginia and home against Ohio State. Do you think having such a tough early schedule is beneficial because it keeps you focused in the offseason?

A: Oh sure, the opening game is going to be awesome. We have a road opener in a tough environment in Charlottesville and then come back for our home opener against Ohio State. That kind of early schedule just gets us focused for the season and that is the kind of competition that we want every week.

Q: Can you talk about Coach Sarkisian and how he has prepared you for this season?

A: Coming in as a young pup, he is tough on the young quarterbacks and I didn't know if I would ever make it through that. He's so hard on us when we first come in and then you realize why. He wants to make it as difficult and challenging as possible when you are in practice, so when the time comes that you have to play because the starter broke his finger like last year, it's a breeze. You're loose, you're free and you know how to prepare.

Mark Sanchez gained valuable experience starting three games in 2007.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden
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