Hard to believe, but after a year of inconsistency but a brilliant Rose Bowl performance, USC quarterback Mark Sanchez will be forgoing his senior year and entering the NFL draft, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.
Shelley Smith of ESPN, however, talked to Sanchez' father early Wednesday evening and reported that the elder Sanchez told her Mark had not decided on which way he was leaning and wanted to speak with his head coach before making his final decision.
Pete Carroll is on his way back from Hawai'i and is expected to join Sanchez in Heritage Hall Thursday to make the announcement, according to Mortensen.
OK...two conflicting reports from the World Wide Leader in Sports- I guess that's one way to cover your rump. No matter what, you're kinda right. The Les Miles incident obviously is still stewing salt in their wounds.
According to safety Taylor Mays, who has decided to return to USC for his final year, Sanchez has been "torn" over his impending decision. His family wants him to stay at USC, and head coach Pete Carroll has asked Sanchez to wait until Thursday, the deadline for announcing whether or not a player will enter the draft.
Adding fuel to Sanchez' likely decision to go pro is the announcement that Sam Bradford will return to Oklahoma for another year. With Bradford, McCoy and Harrell all staying put, the quarterback pickings are slim in the draft, coming down to Matthew Stafford (Georgia) and Sanchez as the top two prospects.
But is Sanchez making the right decision? Probably not.
Sanchez has a cannon arm, but has made mental miscues the entire season. Sanchez has a tendency to force the ball into triple coverage - sometimes it works, sometimes, it doesn't - and tries to do it all himself. He has been compared to Brett Favre- a true gunslinger that will make unbelievable plays but throw some picks which disrupt the offensive flow of the game.
"There's no doubt Mark has that gunslinger mentality. He wants to come out and make a play. The last thing you want to do is to take that out of him. You don't want to give him a 'gunslinger-otomy.' But it's got to be tempered to a degree. He has to learn when to and when not to."--Nick Sanchez, father
Sanchez has a couple of things working in his favor though. For one, he had a mind-blowing Rose Bowl with an eighty percent completion stat that is probably still reverberating in some NFL scouts' minds. He had the game of his life, and it's the last memory scouts will have of him.
Secondly, Sanchez is familiar with a pro set offense, something that helps his status. Florida's Tim Tebow runs a spread offense with gimmicky plays such as jump passes, and many scouts question whether someone like Tebow can transition into an NFL offense from a spread. (Note- this author does not agree with that)
Thirdly, Sanchez is a great leader. You can see it on the sidelines when he fires up his teammates on both sides of the ball. He is not a diva, and handles the press with a schmooziness not seen in a long time. In short, he took over the team and guided them to a 12-1 season and made Penn State's secondary look like a JV team in the Rose Bowl.
Finally, there are the Matt Cassel factors. Cassel, who played his entire career at USC as a backup, is now the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. The Cassel factors include good mechanics, a strong desire to study and memorize playbooks, and patience.
Sanchez has two of those three Cassel factors, good mechanics and the desire to study, but lacks patience. It shows in his sometimes-poor decision making and his apparent desire to enter the NFL early when he really doesn't have enough experience to do so. He has played 16 games, but three of them were in place of injured quarterback J.D. Booty and the results were a mixed bag. Against Oregon, he threw a pick which sealed the Trojans' fate. While he did win against Notre Dame and Arizona, his total stats for 2007 were seven TDs, five INTs. Meh.
2008 was a lot better, with a 164.64 passer rating, 34 TDs, 10 INTs and 65% completions. It looks fantastic, heck, better than Matthew Stafford's stats of 25 TDs, 10 INTs, 61.4% completions and a 153.54 passer rating. Who would you pick?
Trojans' fans may cry and whimper a bit over this latest news, but really, it's not an issue. Since Carson Palmer left, the quarterbacks at USC have stepped up and played beyond expectations. There has been no let-up, and probably won't be any this year if Sanchez does indeed enter the draft.
USC is hardly suffering in the quarterback department. The Trojans have Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain, both of whom have had game-time experience; Mustain actually started and won eight games for Arkansas, and Corp has been in charge of the offense during many blow-outs' fourth quarters. Then there's Garrett Green, who at one point in the season moved ahead of Corp and Mustain on the depth chart. A true athlete, he can play QB, WR, Safety and on special teams.
The final stud to be added to the mix is Matt Barkley, the No. 1 recruit in the country from football factory Mater Dei, who apparently has a little Tim Tebow in him as well.
"No one will be bugging Matt Barkley about the '08 playoffs this Christmas," according to Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register. "The whole family is headed to South Africa, under the Bridges of Hope project, to help build homes. He's been to Mexico to mix mortar and lay bricks and play soccer with children. He often brings his guitar to Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa and leads worship."
Four quarterbacks- two of them Gatorade players of the year - and only one starting spot to hand out in the spring. Most teams would kill to be in that position. Most teams would be devastated to lose a quarterback like Sanchez. Most teams.
And the beat goes on.