While the conference media days are usually the highlight of the dog days of college football leading up to the start of fall practice, it's probably not a real good idea to put a ton of stock into what these head coaches have to say at their press conferences. Generally, there's a lot of hot air being throw around. Don't get me wrong, I love the media day events. I find them to be enjoyable because (a) It's football discussion in July, and (b) well, it's football discussion in July!! Still, it's easy to get caught up in the buzz that coaches are trying to create around their programs. I'll be the first to admit that I'll probably listen to Charlie Weis' press conference at the ND media day this week, get way too excited about what is being said, and fire off about ten emails with something along the lines of "YES WE CAN!! ND is going 12-0! Start building a statue of Weis on campus!!" And then I'll remember the next day that we didn't get a first down against USC until the 3rd quarter last year and remind myself that a dazzling press conference with a lot of hype ultimately means nothing until the games begin. Nothing wrong with getting excited leading up to the season, but the media day chatter should not be viewed as gospel.
With that said, how about Pete Carroll saying the following about freshman phenom, Matt Barkley??
He was "a total shock to us. He was able to perform at a level we've never seen at this stage".
That gulping sound you just heard appears to be coming from every Pac 10 coach out there dreading the possibility of this guy being the QB at USC for the next three years. Carroll went on to say that Aaron Corp is his starter going into the 2009 season, but I still sense that the USC quarterback job could change hands at some point during the 2009 season.
How about that statement though?? Maybe it was just Carroll's way of motivating Aaron Corp, but what if he really means it?? Is Carroll saying that Barkley is the most talented quarterback he's had in his time as head coach at USC?
Think about the quarterbacks that have come through USC since Carroll has been there.
John David Booty
That's a pretty incredible list. You're talking about two Heisman winners, another guy who was drafted in the top ten, a fourth guy (Booty) who is competing for the starting QB job with the Minnesota Vikings, and another guy who didn't even play at USC but had a Pro Bowl caliber year with the New England Patriots (Cassel). It's safe to say that the "Quarterback U" baton has been passed from Miami (FL) to USC in the last decade. If Carroll is saying that Barkley compares favorably to those guys, what does it say about Matt Barkley??
Before I get to any further discussion on the Barkley-Corp situation, how would you all rank those first four guys based solely on their careers at USC??
My list would go like this:
4) John David Booty - No brainer here to have Booty in the back of the line. He was your classic "don't screw this thing up" guy on a couple loaded teams at SC. I still don't know how that 2006 USC team didn't win the national championship. I remember watching their first game against Arkansas where they went into Fayetteville and tore apart a really good Arkansas team that won 10 games with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, and thinking that they were unstoppable. Then they destroyed Nebraska at home when Bill Callahan appeared to be coaching the game purely to avoid a blowout (didn't matter). Somehow they lost two games that year. That would kill me if I was a USC fan because they would have whipped an undefeated Ohio State team in the National title game that year.
Booty had his moments, but he was slow and usually made a few bonehead throws every game. If he didn't have ten seconds to throw every time he went back to pass, he probably would have been a very average QB.
3) Mark Sanchez -- I'll be more than willing to admit I'm wrong if he goes on to become an NFL star, but I've yet to be blown away by Mark Sanchez. Honestly, other than a little bit better athleticism, there's not that much of a difference in my mind between John David Booty and Mark Sanchez. Both those guys were extremely fortunate to play for loaded USC teams, which magnified their profiles.
Does Mark Sanchez seem like a likable guy?? No question. Is he the most popular Mexican-American athlete in the country right now?? Perhaps. Did he have a good career at USC and completely dominate two overmatched teams in the Rose Bowl?? Yes and yes.
But what did he really prove at USC?! He never got touched!! Think back to a typical USC pass play during the Sanchez era. Sanchez goes back to pass, fakes the handoff while everyone gets sucked in out of fear of the USC running attack, waits for what feels like half an hour for a receiver to get open, and then throws a square-in completion to a wide open receiver who then cuts up field and picks up another 5-6 yards. That was like 75% of his production. The other 25% came from rollouts where he had three options, and then he had some occasional deep play action passes where he'd underthrow a wide open Damien Williams who had to slow up before catching the ball.
I never watched Mark Sanchez and came away in awe of his performance. I've been blown away by many things about USC football in the last ten years, but nothing about Sanchez's game ever really stood out to me. His arm was OK, his accuracy was OK, his mobility was OK. He was never asked to do that much. Most of his throws were over the middle to open receivers, and he almost always had great field position since USC's defense was so good. For the most part, no one scored on the USC defense, so Sanchez could get away with winning 17-10 on occasion.
Thinking back to the 2008 ND game, USC's offense really didn't do much for a good chunk of the first half against a mediocre ND defense, but they kept getting the ball at midfield to start every drive. Eventually you are going to hit some big plays and put up some points. Sanchez was productive, but he was never a guy that I feared.
That's why I gotta rank him #3 here. Sanchez was good and won a lot of games, but I think he's been a bit of a media creation. He was basically a one year starter at USC. If he had come back for his senior year and completely dominated on the way to the Heisman, maybe I would have moved him up. We'll never know.
2) Matt Leinart -- I guess you could lump Leinart into the "media creation" category as well now that his NFL career has really fizzled, but I hold a higher opinion of Matt Leinart's college career than I do for Mark Sanchez. Maybe his pro career has been a disappointment so far (you could even call him a bust at this point), but Leinart has to be on the short list of the all-time great quarterbacks.
Three year starter, won pretty much every big game he played in (with one notable exception), Heisman trophy winner, and 2 national titles. He did it all. I don't think I ever saw him play bad in a big game. Leinart was just one of those guys who always came through when it mattered. 37-2 as a starter at USC. If Dickie V was a college football announcer, he would call Leinart "the Ultimate Winner, baby!" Couldn't you see him saying that about 500 times a game if he was calling a USC game (or even if he was calling some other game for that matter)??
Leinart had a noodle arm, but he put the ball where it needed to go. His completion percentages were always 65% and above, and he rarely threw a pick. Great career. Hasn't worked out in the pros so far, but I'm not ruling out the possibility that he'll end up starting somewhere.
By the way, why hasn't an NFL team like the Vikings offered up a 2nd rounder and a 4th rounder to the Cards for Matt Leinart?? I know Kurt Warner has rejuvenated his career in Arizona and can't realistically be replaced after leading Zona to the Super Bowl, but you never really hear anything about Leinart's role in the organization. Even if he is part of their long term plans, wouldn't he be worth more to them in a trade than he would be as a potential starter 3-4 years down the road?? Leinart is 26. In another 2-3 years, he's going to be getting up there in years. Not many 29 year olds getting their first opportunity to play.
Still, he has some pedigree and presumably some trade value. There are teams all over the NFL who are desperate for a QB, and you got Leinart sitting there in Arizona riding the pine. Why not offer up a couple picks to get him??
1) Carson Palmer -- Maybe this pick is showing my bias since I've had the pleasure of watching Carson Palmer perform in Cincinnati, but Palmer was the best I've seen at USC since Carroll has been there. If you were to draw up the perfect pro style quarterback, I would use Carson Palmer as my prototype. In his days before the ACL injury, I don't think anyone threw a better ball than Carson Palmer. Give me one guy to throw a 15-20 yard out route to a covered wide receiver to a spot where only he could catch it, and I would pick Carson Palmer. The guy was unreal.
I still think his performance against Notre Dame in the 2002 ND-USC games was one of the greatest performances I've ever seen in a college football game. ND was actually a pretty strong team that year, and he just torched us up and down the field. Never seen anything like it. 425 yards passing. Just sickening as an ND fan, but awe-inspiring as a football fan. That was the moment when the mystique of Tyrone Willingham started to crumble (remember that the 2002 team was 9-1 at the time and looking like a BCS team), and also the moment when USC had officially arrived back on the national scene.
I could understand an argument for Leinart since he won more games and had the higher profile career, but I think Palmer was the best QB of the Carroll era.
Anyway, back to Matt Barkley for a second. If Carroll is saying that Barkley is the best QB he's seen at this stage of the game, I think it's going to be hard to keep him off the field over the course of the 2009 season. It's the first time in awhile where there really wasn't a clear cut "heir apparent" for the USC quarterback job. I know Corp has looked great in practice, but Barkley sounds like a Peyton Manning type who is ready to start from day one.
This Corp-Barkley competition is the #1 story in college football heading into the 2009 season in my book. How could it not be?? USC has been the best program in American for the last eight years, and now they have a legit controversy that could determine their future at that position for the next 3-4 years. If Barkley wins the job, he'll probably be there for the next three years and heading to the NFL in 2012. If Corp wins it, he's got a chance to be a 3 year starter with Barkley nipping at his heels. Very interesting stuff there, and I wonder if Barkley would be willing to sit the bench behind Aaron Corp.