Spring ball battle at QB

It seems like forever since Carson Palmer has been the QB for the Trojans but now comes the time when we must find a replacement. Here's an early look at the four candidates for the job along with comments on each from a Trojan defensive player who faced them in practice last year:

Matt Cassel

(6-5, 225, JR)

A leader who is ready for the opportunity to be the quarterback for the USC Trojans.  He has sat patiently for three years while learning at the heels of a Heisman Trophy winner, he has watched while his girlfriend won a national title in volleyball and in his mind he's paid the dues necessary to get his shot.  Matt is certainly a good enough athlete, he was also a tremendous baseball player at nationally ranked Chatsworth HS and is a former Little League World Series participant.  He has an older brother who plays minor league baseball and a younger brother who is a pitcher verbally committed to UC Irvine. 


"Cassel has the upper hand right now.  He's a proven leader in the weight room and has a firm grasp of the offense.  Matt is a fierce competitor but it remains to be seen how consistent he can be and if he'll be restricted due to his nagging injuries.  We haven't seen a problem yet but it's a situation that needs to be watched."


Brandon Hance

(6-1, 190, JR)

Transferred from Purdue last year in a move that left many Trojan fans puzzled yet he is likely the primary threat to Cassel for the starting spot.  Brandon is not the biggest or the fastest but he brings a playground style and an understanding of what this offense is trying to accomplish.  He simply knows how to make plays and when you combine that with the ability to make the correct read you have an ideal candidate for the Norm Chow system.


"The first thing you have to know is that Norm Chow marvels at his knowledge of the game and Brandon will get every opportunity to win the job.  Last year during games Brandon would sit up in the press box and Chow was impressed by what he knew.  He knows where the receiver is supposed to be, he's really good at finding spots in the zone and exposing defensive weaknesses.  He has the same frame as Steve Sarkisian, Brandon is mobile and can create but he isn't what I would call a running quarterback.  The main question mark at this point would be his arm strength coming off surgery."


Matt Leinart

(6-5, 215, SO)

Could be the wild card in the competition.  There has been so much made in recent months about Leinart and his future at SC but what gets lost in all that talk is the fact that the guy is a pretty good quarterback.  He's a tough, savvy, quiet leader who has the respect of his teammates and Matt was known in HS as a QB who was at his best in clutch situations.


"He's hard to read because he's so laid back.  His heart is a Trojan, that's for sure, but his window of opportunity is upon him and it will be interesting to see what happens.  Of the three top candidates he has the strongest arm with the best deep ball touch.  Will he be able to take those skills and transfer them to a college situation?  It's hard to say.  He needs to be more proactive in practice situations."


Billy Hart

(6-2, 205, SO)

He's playing baseball this spring, a move that gives him the benefit of being a two-sport athlete for the Trojans but which also effectively removes him from any real shot at being named the starting quarterback.  Billy is such a terrific natural athlete and it's great to see him contributing for Mike Gillespie although it would also be nice to see what he could accomplish with all his athletic attention focused on football.


"Billy is my sleeper of the group.  I judge people by how they approach practice and he commands leadership and respect from the guys around him. He would get in a guys face if they missed a block or dropped a pass they should have caught.  He took a makeshift offense on the scout team and was able to pick our defense apart and our defense was no slouch.  Billy can get out of a lot of situations with his feet and that's important because this offense needs a quarterback who is mobile. The knock at this point though is his commitment to baseball.  If you're going to be the quarterback of this program then you're the leader and you need to be here."

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