Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sanchez may be ready, but should he play?

Quarterback Mark Sanchez is showing signs of progression, following the dislocation of his knee cap, an injury suffered two weeks ago. USC’s No. 1 is dropping back in drills and throwing the ball, which is a great sign. Both he and his coaches remain optimistic that he'll be able to open on August 30th against Virginia.

But even with optimism, a “just-in-case” quarterback battle rolls on. Mitch Mustain still appears to have the bigger arm than his challenger, but Aaron Corp is more mobile. If I had to give a slight edge, which would be by the thinnest of margins, I would put Mustain in the lead. One big advantage Mitch has over sophomore Corp is familiarity with Trojans receiver Damien Williams, another transfer from Arkansas. Williams has emerged as a sure handed playmaker in the Trojan offense, and would be a favorite target of his former Hogs hurler.

But a question still lingers about opening day, and an eventual choice of quarterback. Even if Sanchez is ready to go, should Pete Carroll play him? Not that I’m looking to diminish the power of the Virginia Cavaliers, but Mark Sanchez playing with his health less than 100% is likely to play in a downscaled conservative offense. Be it Corp or Mustain, still familiarizing themselves with the first unit, a conservative approach is again likely. Maybe it would be best to continue to rest Sanchez than to throw him in on opening day, putting him in a position to take a shot in that sore knee.

Sanchez admits the knee still hurts. Virginia appears in a little less than two weeks, followed by a bye, and then the meeting with Ohio State. If the Trojans take the field against Virginia without Sanchez, and find themselves marching to victory, it gives Mark nearly a month of healing without absorbing hits. If the offense is struggling under another starting QB, only then would I play him in the opener. The best long term decision would be to sideline your No. 1 and see how your No. 2 can perform. That was a mistake made in last year’s loss to Stanford, when the coaching staff chose to stay with an injured Booty (broken finger) instead of playing the healthy Sanchez.

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