Not So Hollywood Ending: Pete Carroll Not Happy With Mark Sanchez

By Chris Le

Gritting his teeth while half-heartedly saying goodbye to his former starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, Pete Carroll sounded like a little kid who didn’t get his way.  It was the oddest sight, too.  Borderline embarrassing even.  I almost didn’t believe it was Pete.  Usually calm and classy, it was the first time, outside of the sidelines, I’ve ever seen the USC head coach peeved.

But can you blame him?

USC is already facing a laundry list of changes in a daunting 2009 season.

Firstly, the schedule will be tougher.  They essentially play the same teams they faced in 2008 but this time, they’ll be on the road for the big ones (at Ohio State, at Cal, at Notre Dame, at Oregon, at Arizona State).

And coach Carroll will face this gauntlet without longtime offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach (not to mention big-time recruiter) Steve Sarkisian, who is now running the show at Washington. He will be sorely missed in Pasadena.

But worst of all, the vaunted defense that wrecked havoc on the Pac-10 will be overhauled and might be the team’s weakness in the upcoming year.  USC, of course, doesn’t rebuild but reloads–or so they say.  All those blue-chip recruits haven’t really panned out.  When does talent turn into results?  Only time will tell.

Now, thanks to Sanchez’s departure, they’ll have to integrate a new starting quarterback.  The most coveted position in college football will belong to either Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain, sophomore Aaron Corp, senior Garrett Green or highly-touted incoming freshman Matt Barkley.

Many message board nerds like myself have this vision of Barkley arriving to campus, immediately winning the starting spot and leading USC to the title.

I’ll be the first to say that Barkley has all the tools of a Heisman-winning quarterback–even more so than anyone on the current roster.  He’s the best quarterback prospect I’ve seen in years.  But he won’t see any meaningful playing time next year.  The learning curve is too steep and even though Barkley will enroll early, the playbook is massive and intricate.  He’ll need more than one semester to catch up.  Plus, while the arm strength, accuracy and touch are already there, I question Barkley’s decision making when under pressure.  Just check out his 23-18 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his senior season at Mater Dei high school.

The starting spot will either go to Mustain or Corp.  Mustain is the more polished passer; Corp is the better athlete who can make plays with his feet.  At this point, I have no idea who’ll win out.  Early in the 2008 season, Corp beat out Mustain for the backup job, only to see Mustain take over halfway through the year.  But if you held a gun to my head, I’d go with Mustain.

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2 responses to “Not So Hollywood Ending: Pete Carroll Not Happy With Mark Sanchez

  1. That was pretty selfish on Carroll’s part. Juniors leave all the time, and Carroll is so adamant to have his QB’s stay four years. Sanchez will be undeservingly drafted high thanks to a weak QB class this upcoming draft.

    I hear the battle’s between Mustain and Corp, like you mentioned. Does Mustain’s 7-0 record in Arkansas in 2006 mean nothing? Granted, I haven’t seen Corp play but either way, Barkley will be looking at one year as a starter max, yes?

  2. I have a feeling the Niners will draft Mark Sanchez. Not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I think he’s more talented than Carson Palmer, Matt Cassell, or Matt Leinart; Sanchez has all the tools in one nice package. But he hasn’t really put it all together yet. He’s only started one season, and if you watched him game in and game out, it wasn’t that great of year. It was merely good. He had plenty of stinkers to go with that great Rose Bowl performance. In the end, he’ll test well at the combine and end up a top 10 pick. Not sure that will translate into results.

    Mustain’s experience at Arkansas does give him an advantage–but not much. I credit that 7-0 record to the backfield that featured two future NFL stars: Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. But I give Mustain some props for not throwing away games. Anyways, Mustain has the inside track for the starting spot. He has more experience and he’s been playing with Damian Williams, USC’s best receiver, since high school.

    I think Barkley has a chance to start in two years, if he grasps the playbook quickly enough. But leapfrogging next year’s starter will be a tough task. If he chooses to redshirt his freshman year, though, he’ll be starting at least two years during his college career.

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