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.

As for those comparisons to Stafford, it appears that the University of Georgia product is winning the battle in the minds of pro scouts and draft pundits. Scouts love Stafford’s arm strength and claim he can make all the throws necessary for a quarterback to succeed in the NFL. Sanchez certainly is not backing down, choosing to perform every drill at the combine, both physical and throwing drills, while Stafford opted to sit out. Sanchez can also claim a slight advantage in on-field performance, as he threw for nine more TDs than Stafford did, while the Georgia QB engineered the Bulldogs to two more losses than Sanchez’s Trojans.

No matter what team he ends up with, or how many quarterbacks are taken before him, it’s safe to say Sanchez will welcome the head-on competition. After all, he hasn’t backed down from a single battle yet.

The latest on Sanchez

Widely regarded by draft scouts as the second-best quarterback available in the draft behind Matthew Stafford, Sanchez should still go in the first round, possibly in the first 15 picks.

Mel Kiper Jr. has him going no. 3 to the Kansas City Chiefs’s Don Banks says the Jacksonville Jaguars will take him no. 8

Todd McShay says he will go no. 15 to the Houston Texans

Sanchez on the Web profile

Career and year-by-year statistics

USC profile

Stats and personal information

Wikipedia page

Loads of information and links on Sanchez

New York Times feature from September 2008

Billy Witz writes of the emphasis Mark’s dad Nick put on education

ESPN The Magazine preseason 2008 feature (with video of the Sanchez family)

Jose Arangure, Jr. writes about Sanchez’s upbringing, and his Mexican-American heritage

USA Today article on Sanchez at the combine

Jim Corbett describes Sanchez’s drive to prove himself worthy of the top pick in the draft

Fan site

Bio, news and videos

Video of Todd McShay breaking down Sanchez’s game

ESPN’s draft guru points out Sanchez’s strengths and weaknesses

Video of Sanchez and USC roommate Stanley Havili showing off their crib

They’ve got a pet snake named Katrina

Video of every single one of Sanchez’s Rose Bowl passes

Shield your eyes, Penn State fans

Video of Pete Carroll upset over Sanchez leaving early

Sanchez Says

On interviewing with so many NFL teams at the combine in a short time span:

“It’s like speed dating.”

On whether or not he should be the no. 1 pick instead of Matthew Stafford:

“Absolutely. I’d better think that. I think he should think that too.”

On USC Coach Pete Carroll saying Sanchez would have been better off returning to school:

“If you know coach, you know how competitive he is. I took that as a sign of respect. A very good football coach wanted me back on that team.”

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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