Athlete Profile: Mark Sanchez

If it seems as though Mark Sanchez is handling the constant comparisons to fellow top QB prospect Matthew Stafford in stride, that’s because the former USC signal-caller knows a thing or two about competition.

After all, he starred for a school that in the last 6 years has produced four NFL quarterbacks – Carson Palmer (’03), Matt Cassel (’05), Matt Leinart (’06) and John David Booty (’08). Now, Sanchez stands poised to become the fifth.

Competition was so stiff at quarterback for USC that Sanchez didn’t even become a full-time starter until this past season. But he made the most of it, shredding defenses to the tune of 3,207 yards and 34 touchdowns while leading Southern Cal to a 12-1 record. He capped off his season by leading the Trojans to a 38-24 Rose Bowl victory over Penn State in which he completed 80 percent of his passes for 413 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, while also rushing for a score.

Despite his stellar season and even better bowl game performance, some question Sanchez’s NFL value because of his relatively limited time under center in college.

Count USC Head Coach Pete Carroll among his doubters. During a press conference in which Sanchez announced his intention to declare for the NFL Draft, Carroll said he disagreed with his quarterback’s choice, citing numerous cases and statistical data that suggest quarterbacks who leave school early struggle in the NFL.

His coach’s lack of confidence aside, Sanchez certainly has the physical tools of an NFL quarterback. The 6’3″, 225-pound signal caller possesses a quick release, displays solid arm strength, above average athleticism and great field vision. He’s also known to be something of a gym rat – a quality that will certainly come in handy as he tries to break the mold of quarterbacks that entered the NFL draft early. It’s also important to note that Sanchez is a fourth-year junior, and will walk away from USC this year with his degree.

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Quarterback class struggles at combine

Teams in need of a quarterback this offseason might not want to pass on what’s available on the free agent market because the QB class at the NFL scouting combine had a rough weekend.

Georgia’s Matthew Stafford might have been on to something when he didn’t workout this weekend at the combine, because his quarterback brethren didn’t fair too well according to the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock and Paul Burmeister. In fact, the quarterback who impressed the most during drills was West Virginia’s Pat White, who might not even project as a QB in the NFL. White apparently showed the best arm strength of any QB on out routes and also looked very comfortable on a whole.

Scouts said that Mark Sanchez’s (USC) throws were strong and powerful, although his release looked elongated. I had the chance to watch the combine on the NFL Network and I would say his accuracy wasn’t up to snuff, either (or at least not for a quarterback prospect expected to be selected in the first round).

Among the quarterback prospects that really struggled were Alabama’s John Parker Wilson, Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell and Kansas State’s Josh Freeman. Wilson and Harrell were going to be late round projects no matter how they fared at the combine, but Freeman was supposed to have the best physical tools of any QB in the draft. Apparently his first round projection in some mocks was way off.

Stafford’s gamble to not workout might have paid off. Sanchez was the only guy that could have unseated Stafford as the top quarterback prospect and while he was okay in drills, he was far from spectacular.

Teams might be better off waiting for Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Texas’s Colt McCoy to come out next year because outside of Stafford and maybe Sanchez, most of the quarterbacks in this year’s class are developmental projects at best.

Top 32 NFL Draft Prospects

Pete Prisco of ranked the top 32 prospects in this year’s NFL draft.

Here are his top 10:

1. Matt Stafford, QB, Georgia: When he throws for the scouts, they will be in awe. There are some who think he locks on to receivers at times. But that can happen to young passers with big arms.

2. Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest: Think Derrick Brooks. He’s a run-and-chase linebacker who has good size at 240 pounds. He might be the cleanest player in the draft, the one with the fewest flaws.

3. B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College: He’s a power player who could not be blocked at the Senior Bowl. At 335 pounds, he also has good quickness.

4. Jason Smith, T, Baylor: This former tight end has great feet and plays with a nasty streak. He is 6-4, 300 pounds and has the frame to get bigger. He’s a better pass blocker, but will get better for the run as he matures.

5. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech: He is the next Larry Fitzgerald. He’s big and strong. The once concern with him is his 40 time. But Fitzgerald wasn’t fast either.

6. Eugene Monroe, T, Virginia: He’s another tackle who is better as a pass protector than blocking for the run. Is that a bad thing?

7. Andre Smith, T, Alabama: He played left tackle at Alabama, but some scouts wonder if he’s not more of a right tackle. He’s the best run blocker of the three top tackles, but he has struggled with some speed rushers.

8. Mark Sanchez, QB, USC: He’s accurate, poised and his arm is plenty strong. The knock on him will be that he was a one-hit wonder. Don’t believe it.

9. Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State: He’s a smart cover player who might not have blazing speed, but he plays fast enough. He’s easily the top corner in this draft.

10. Everette Brown, LB-DE, Florida State: Think Dwight Freeney. He’s short at 6-1 but has a great burst off the edge. He might even rise up this board as we go through the process.

Everyone is going to have varying opinions on which prospect is better than the next (everyone is an expert this time of year), but I think that’s a pretty solid top 10. I don’t think Sanchez is a top 10 prospect, but that’s just me. For the amount of talent USC had this year, he certainly didn’t dominant and I think he’s a raw prospect in that he’ll need a couple years to develop.

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Doyel: Carroll’s actions at Sanchez’s press conference were just

Gregg Doyel of CBS is claiming that he’s the only one who didn’t think that USC head coach Pete Carroll was being a jerk at Mark Sanchez’s press conference last week, in which the Trojan quarterback declared himself eligible for the NFL draft.

Pete Carroll & Mark SanchezAnd then he did it, even after Carroll advised him not to. So Carroll spoke about that at the press conference, and everyone heard one thing. They heard Carroll making an ass of himself.

Me, I heard something else. I heard Carroll being fed up. Carroll knew Sanchez had initially been leaning toward staying. Carroll knew that he then told Sanchez, based on conversations with NFL people — and Carroll knows NFL people; he once was head coach of the Jets and Patriots — that Sanchez’s pro career would be better served with one more year of college. And still Sanchez turned pro early.

So who got to Sanchez? Between the lines of that awkward press conference, that’s the question I heard. I heard Carroll wondering who it was that got to his player. Carroll has seen it before, with scumbags getting close to Reggie Bush and even O.J. Mayo on the basketball side of campus. Carroll knows the scumbags are still out there. So was it a scumbag this time? Or was it a family member? An agent? A girl? It was someone, and Carroll’s mad as hell at that person, as well as being mad as hell at Sanchez for listening.

So Carroll went into the press conference and delivered a message.

Here’s the thing. Carroll is one of the smoothest coaches in college sports. He knows how to act, and he knows what to say. He knows that everything he says and does will be dissected. And still he walked into that press conference, with plenty of time to prepare, and did what he did, and said what he said.

You think that was an accident? You think he lost control? You think his entire performance wasn’t planned?

I think it was intentional. I think it was premeditated. So I didn’t hear Pete Carroll being a shortsighted jerk. I heard Pete Carroll being fed up with the real shortsighted jerk in this scenario. I just wish I knew who that shortsighted jerk is.

Mark Sanchez knows who it is. Maybe someday, if his NFL career isn’t everything it could have been, he’ll get mad at that shortsighted jerk himself. Even if that shortsighted jerk is someone in his own family, maybe even himself.

So according to Doyel, Carroll has a master plan to prove his point and that’s why he was a calculated jerk at Sanchez’s presser? Either way, that still makes Carroll egotistical.

If everyone follows and writes about Carroll’s every more, than word would have spread (quickly, might I add) that he wasn’t in favor of Sanchez leaving early. He still could have done the professional thing and sat by as Sanchez made the biggest announcement of his life. Carroll still could have privately voiced his displeasure with Sanchez’s decision and made his point that way.

It’s nice that Doyel wants to play devil’s advocate in this situation and while he makes strong points, it still doesn’t excuse the way Carroll acted. Again, word would have spread whether or not Carroll was behind the decision or not. He didn’t have to go through all of that at the presser to prove his point.

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Pete Carroll slightly peeved about Mark Sanchez’s decision to turn pro

Pete Carroll slightly peeved about Mark Sanchez’s decision to turn pro

USC quarterback Mark Sanchez has decided to skip his senior season and become eligible for April’s NFL Draft.

Here’s Trojan head coach Pete Carroll’s reaction to Sanchez’s decision:

Trojan beat writer Scott Wolf, for example, described the scene as “pathetic”:

USC coach Pete Carroll was extremely ungracious during the Mark Sanchez press conference. He stormed out of the room and did not even sit at the table before Sanchez addressed the media. Something he never did when Matt Leinart, etc., announced their decisions.

Carroll never sat down at the table but stood with his palms on the table. His anger was clear if you spend time around him.

Not a great moment.

Wolf is not known as “Caesar’s” biggest fan, but Rose agreed that Carroll was “peeved,” and that seems to be the reaction that’s picking up steam. Sanchez is earning his degree this spring (from the Annenberg School of Communication, which ain’t no joke), and he said all the right things today. I don’t know where Sanchez is going to be drafted or what kind of career he’ll have, but it seems an especially inopportune time for his coach to tell to a rapt media audience, essentially, “I expect this kid to fail.” I don’t know what else he could mean by pointing out the “less than 50-50” success rate of first round quarterbacks.

I equate Carroll’s reaction to a father who’s disappointed in one of his son’s big decisions. Carroll wants Sanchez to stay in school, get another year of experience under his belt and then turn him loose on the NFL world.

But like a father voicing his displeasure with his son’s decision in front of his friends and peers, Carroll shouldn’t have done it this way. There’s no doubt deciding to go pro was a hard decision for Sanchez and now that he’s made his decision, this should be a time for celebration. Regardless of how Carroll felt, he should have supported Sanchez, wished him luck and then got the hell out of the way. If he wanted to voice his displeasure, he should have done it behind closed doors, which I’m sure he did anyway.

It wasn’t Petey’s moment – it was Mark’s. Yet because Carroll’s ego got in the way and because he wanted to “state for the record” that he wasn’t happy with Sanchez’s decision, he came off as kind of a jerk in my eyes.

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