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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