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Clash of Paper Trojans

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While we’re on USC quarterbacks, Matt Hayes has unleashed a Trojanapalooza at The Sporting News on the much anticipated spring quarterback derby between unfairly maligned recruiting princes Matt Sanchez and Mitch Mustain and as-yet unsullied but still wet-behind-the-ears recruiting prince Aaron Corp, a firm number three doomed to be buried under the oncoming hype train following Matt Barkley to campus in 2009. They’re all getting equal reps for now, but the unofficial score has it sexual predator Sanchez over selfish locker room cancer Mustain by a Euro, up from his half-Euro lead at the end of last week.

Seems from the initial coverage it’s going to take a while to separate Sanchez (exonerated by police of a 2005 rape accusation) or Mustain (an actual piece of bauxite forged beneath years of hometown pressure in Arkansas) from those labels, or from attempts like Hayes’ that apply them for the narratively convenient purpose of ripping them off again. Neither is a completely unknown quantity as a quarterback: besides both being pocket-bound, 6-3, 220-ish prototypes who had the recruiting gurus at their feet, they’re 9-1 as starters with wins over non-cupcakes Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Arizona and Notre Dame (fine, the Irish may have been a cupcake last year, but at least Sanchez handled them like one: 4 TDs, no picks). The last regular season pass Mustain attempted was intercepted against South Carolina on the first pass of the game; the last significant pass Sanchez attempted was intercepted at Oregon on the last pass of the game. In Sanchez’s case, the end of that game was him at his best and his worst in the span of a few minutes:

...but given what that loss cost SC at the end of the year, people seem to only remember the worst.

In the interest of equal time, here’s the first drive of Mustain’s career, against – oh, sweet irony! – USC. And for what it’s worth with a 37-point deficit, it’s a beauty (see if you can spot fellow Springdale refugee Damien Williams on the long pass down the sideline):

The Mitch Mustain Era

Since the rest of Mustain’s short-lived tenure as starter consisted of handing off to Darren McFadden and Felix Jones and lobbing prayers in the general vicinity of Marcus Monk, that’s about the extent of the book on either guy. You can see all three quarterbacks throwing in very non-live conditions here, but unless you want to examine Corp’s choppy, happy feet or Mustain’s somnabulent wind-up, the duelling punk/redemption storylines are the best you’re going to get.

In reality, I think we can guess from the last three highly-recruited, statuesque types in the Chow-Kiffin-Sarkisian offense exactly what USC’s going to get from the position:

USC Quarterback Efficiency Since 2002
Year QB Comp. % TD % INT % Rating Pac 10 Rank Ntl. Rank
2002 C. Palmer 63.2 6.75 2.04 149.1 1 5
2003 M. Leinart 63.4 9.45 2.24 164.5 1 3
2004 M. Leinart 65.3 8.01 1.46 156.5 1 7
2005 M. Leinart 65.7 6.5 1.86 157.7 3 8
2006 J. Booty 61.7 6.65 2.06 144.0 1 24
2007 J. Booty 63.2 6.76 1.57 138.1 3 28

There’s a clear drop from Leinart to Booty, who to be fair lacked the ridiculous chest of backfield riches Leinart could always take for granted. But if he’s not winning the Trophy Which Shall Not Be Named, the heir apparent is at minimum the de facto favorite for all-Pac Ten as we speak.